By Paul Emeka Chimodo
Nigeria will derive huge socio-economic benefits from commercial deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) networks, which will come with great potentials that will bolster Nigeria’s socio-economic ecosystem for quantifiable growth.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) stated this during a discussion with a broad spectrum of participants mostly made up of Nigerians at a special panel session sponsored and hosted by the Commission on Thursday this week as part of the programmes of the ongoing Social Media Week Lagos (SMWLagos2020).
The weeklong conference is taking place at the Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
At the NCC panel discussion which focused on, “5G Networks: Socioeconomic Benefits and Challenges”, which was also attended by the Chairman, Board of Commissioners of NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande, participants had a lively conversation as they asked rational and piercing questions from the discussants.
Director, Technical Standards & Network Integrity at NCC, Bako Wakil and an Assistant Director in the Spectrum Administration Department of the Commission, Kenneth Uzoekwe, responded to questions at the session moderated by Head, Online Media & Special Publications at the Commission, Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan.
The first question asked, which centered on what constitutes 5G, was so eloquently and perceptively answered by the panelists to earn applause from the audience.
Wakil explained that all communication possibilities within the framework of ITU’s IMT-2020 that enhance extremely accurate and near-instantaneous transfer of large quantities of data are well within the contemplation of 5G.
Such technologies will also make for a better experience of virtual realities, driverless cars, drone operations and spectra of possibilities popularly called the Internet of Things (IoT).
Wakil explained that 5G is the newest generation of technology which “will bring about transformation in the country in the area of smart city, smart transportation, efficiency in medicine, a lot of automation, and 5G will control a lot of appliances and devices with respect to the Internet of Things (IoT).”
In other words, “the difference between all other existing generations of technologies such as 2G, 3G, and 4G lies in speed and data capacity. The 5G deployment, however, offers even faster speed, high latency and high capacity that will transform consumers and business experiences” Wakil emphasized.
A litany of follow up questions on many aspects of 5G, the key differences between 4G and 5G, and on the implications of 5G for security, speed, capacity, and data consumption were also well treated by the discussants.
Responding to questions on radiation level of a 5G network, Wakil allayed the fears of the participants: “Generally, there is every reason for people to be apprehensive with respect to the radiation of new technology such as 5G. However, the radiation from 5G is non-ionizing. Non-ionizing radiation cannot cause adverse health effects in humans. So, radiation in 5G is going to be minimal and not harmful,” he clarified.
Wakil identified the two major challenges to 5G network deployment as energy and infrastructure. He noted that while the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is coordinating the NCC, the National Frequency Management Council, and the National Broadband Plan to address broadband infrastructure deficits, the poor state of electricity supply in the country needs to be addressed by other sectors of the economy because that matter is outside the purview of the NCC.
Still, on broadband infrastructure, Wakil explained that the NCC, having adopted the Open Access Model for enhanced broadband infrastructure deployment, has licensed six out of seven proposed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to deploy fiber access in all the 774 local government areas (LGAs) of Nigeria.
Speaking about NCC’s preparedness for commercial 5G, Uzoekwe said there are enough spectrum bands that have been identified and can be used for the deployment of 5G. “Six spectrum bands have been identified, so, I can say we have enough spectrum bands. All we need now is to finalize the re-planing and re-farming so that those occupying certain spectra can be relocated to other bands,” Uzoekwe said.
The Panellists: NCC’s Director of Technical Standards & Network Integrity, Engineer Bako Wakil; Assistant Director Spectrum Administration, Kenneth Uzoekwe, and the Head, Online Media and Publication, Omoniyi Ibietan
Uzoekwe told the excited audience that the InfraCo Project will help to bridge the 200 access gaps involving some 35 million Nigerians, who have no access to telecom services, as already identified by the Commission.
It will be recalled that in November 2019, the NCC facilitated the first non-commercial Proof of Concept (PoC) trail of 5G network in Nigeria, which was undertaken by MTN, a Mobile Network Operator in Nigeria. That trial was done to demonstrate the possibilities of 5G operations in Nigeria, preparatory to the commercial launch of the service by telecoms operators.
Therefore, the NCC panel session at the #SMWLagos2020 provided an additional opportunity for the Commission to educate Nigerians on its plan about 5G network deployment in the country.