In this report, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, examines Nigeria’s readiness to join the league of countries that have deployed the Fifth Generation (5G) network. Nigeria is expected to deploy the technology by January 2022.
Fifth generation (5G) network technology is rapidly reaching the mainstream. According to a report by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), more than 378 cities in 58 countries had 5G networks as of June 2021, up from 38 about a year ago. A dozen more have had 5G mobile technology partially deployed. 5G is expected to reach one billion users in three and a half years, compared to four years for 4G and 12 years for 3G.
In 2019, Nigeria became the first country in West Africa to launch 5G network trials, when its largest telecommunications provider, MTN Nigeria, carried out spectrum tests at its offices at two sites (Lagos and Calabar). With the support of mobile operators such as Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson, the first demonstrations were successful.
Now, according to the statement of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isah Pantami, and the level of work carried out by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) under the leadership of Professor Umar Danbatta, the deployment of the network commercial 5G is expected in early January 2022.
The date of January 2022 was declared by Pantami, at a town hall meeting in Maiduguri, Borno State, organized by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to fight against vandalism of electrical infrastructure and telecommunications last Thursday.
Pantami was represented by Technical Services Commissioner, NCC, Ubale Maska, at the meeting. Nigeria’s readiness is coming, after stakeholders around the world successfully tackle misconceptions and other conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to COVID-19 and cancers.
The 5G revolution
The 5G network is the advanced form of 2G, 3G and 4G. Nigeria currently operates the last three. A large number of the advanced countries of the world have adopted the 5G network, while others are planning its adoption in the next few years, due to its high connectivity speed which will lead to new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT), among others.
5G is designed to be a system that will bring flexibility to mobile, fixed and broadcast networks and support broader data requirements. Technology will impact the way interactions are carried out by enabling, in some cases, unforeseen business models, improved lifestyles, all resulting in increased productivity.
Advantages of the 5G network
5G is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks, which enables a new type of network designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, things and devices.
5G wireless technology is intended to deliver higher data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability and a more uniform user experience to more users.
“5G has the potential to deliver 20 times faster data speeds and carry massive amounts of data for a large number of concurrent users. So users in high density areas – like airports, stadiums or urban areas – can still take advantage of the fast speeds and low latency of 5G service.
The 5G network is designed to carry data up to 10 times faster than 4G networks. This means that HD movies can be downloaded in seconds.
5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). 5G is 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. Using shorter frequencies (millimeter waves between 30 GHz and 300 GHz) for 5G networks is why 5G is so fast.
Slow deployment in Africa
Despite its identified benefits, the Ericsson Mobility Report from June 2021 showed that the 5G network remains slow in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but it is expected to work in the region for the next several years.
Although 5G subscriptions are still less than 1% of the total number of subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2020, Ericsson expects “discernible volumes of 5G subscriptions” by 2022, reaching around 7% in 2026.
The report notes, however, that 3G will remain the dominant technology on the continent, with a share of over 40% of mobile subscriptions in 2026. It predicts that 4G will reach around 28% of subscriptions in the region by 2026.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, 5G commercial deployments are proceeding faster and 5G subscriptions topped one million by the end of 2020. Significant 5G volumes are expected in 2021 and the region is expected to reach around 150 million. 5G subscriptions in 2026, representing 18% of total mobile subscriptions.
Globally, 5G is expected to be the fastest deployed mobile communications technology in history and is expected to cover approximately 60% of the world’s population by 2026.
At the end of 2020, 4G represented around 15% of subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa, while 3G was still the largest share with 43%, followed by 2G with just under 42%.
Deploying 5G wireless speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G will cost between $ 130 billion and $ 150 billion in fiber cabling alone over the next five to seven years.
This is according to a study by Deloitte which found that massive investments in fiber optic infrastructure will be necessary for the United States to reach its 5G potential.
The same goes for other countries. According to the report, the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sold 2,251 MHz of spectrum for 5G at a base price of 3.92 trillion yen, which to some extent limited the participation of telecom operators in the country.
Nigeria plans to start auctioning spectrum for the 5G network in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the NCC projection.
Seen as a roughly 400% price increase in Nigeria by service providers, the NCC said each 5G spectrum location would cost a fixed price of N75 billion, adding that through auctions it could reach 100. billion naira.
Rising prices could cut access to 25 million Nigerians
With the 75 billion naira premium on the spectrum, only a few of the larger operators might be able to afford the license. It also means that the technology might not be deployed across Nigeria.
To date, some 25 million Nigerians in 114 telecom clusters (cities and towns across the country) could remain outside of 5G coverage areas, as operators would focus on viable areas that ensure rapid returns on investments. .
Despite the completion of 20 years of telecommunications revolution in Nigeria, checks showed that these 25 million Nigerians had no access to any basic telephone service.
Analysts have estimated that even if 4G hasn’t even reached across the country, pricing 5G spectrum at 75 billion yen could further worsen access gaps in the country.
ALTON Chairman Gbenga Adebayo said 5G remains a technology the country should embrace. According to Adebayo, if these technologies are not adequately harnessed and adopted in Nigeria, “neighboring countries would embrace and slow down our own progress. This will push Nigeria back as there is no type of service you will need on 5G networks that does not exist. Globally, part of the progress being made is the acceptance of technology as it evolves.
Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) president Ikechukwu Nnamani, who admitted Nigeria should not be left behind when it comes to emerging technologies, said lowering the cost of spectrum would help operators to provide affordable 5G service to subscribers. rate.
“There is no doubt that operators are going to spend a lot of money to deploy 5G and they will have to recoup their investment in the service. The only way to reduce the cost to the subscriber is for the telecommunications regulator to make the cost of 5G spectrum as low as possible, ”he said.