At an era when 5G deployment is surging globally, with the technology going live in 24 markets worldwide, telecommunications sector umpire, the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), held a special panel session at a week-long 2020 Social Media Week in Lagos(SMWLagos2020), which ended Friday, February 28, at the Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, south west Nigeria, saying Nigeria will tap humongous socioeconomic dividends from the disruptive technology.
The NCC dedicated the panel session, which was well attended by participants from across industry verticals, to discuss “5G Network deployment, socioeconomic benefits and challenges.”
At the NCC panel discussion, 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 penetrating 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 which dwelt on what constituted 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 enhanced extremely accurate and near-instantaneous transfer of large quantities of data were well within the contemplation of 5G. Such technologies, he said, would also make for better experience of virtual realities(VR), driverless cars, drone operations and a spectra of possibilities popularly called the Internet of Things (IoT).
Wakil explained that 5G was 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 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 emphasised.
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 a new technology such as 5G. However, the radiation from 5G is non-ionising. Non-ionising radiation cannot cause adverse health effects in humans. So, radiation in 5G is going to me minimal and not harmful,” he clarified.
Wakil identified the two major challenges to 5G network deployment as energy and infrastructure and noted that while the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy(MOCDE) was 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 needed to be addressed by other sectors of the economy because that matter was outside the purview of the Commission.
Still on broadband infrastructure, Wakil explained that the NCC, having adopted the Open Access Model for enhanced broadband infrastructure deployment, had licensed six out of seven proposed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to deploy fibre access in all the 774 local government areas (LGAs) of Nigeria.
Speaking about NCC’s preparedness for commercial 5G, Uzoekwe said there was enough spectrum bands that had been identified and could 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 finalise the re-planing and re-farming, so that those occupying certain spectra can be relocated to other bands,” Uzoekwe said.
Uzoekwe told the excited audience that the InfraCo Project would help to bridge the 200 access gaps involving some 35 million Nigerians, who had no access to telecom services, as already identified by the Commission.
In November 2019, the NCC facilitated the first non-commercial Proof of Concept (PoC) trial 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.
Crucially, 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.