REGULATORY

Nigerian Telecommunications Sector Regulator Mulls Policy For Deployment Of 5G

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…Says No 5G Deployment Until Policy Conclusion, Approval

By Cyber Era Senior Correspondent

If things pan out the way they are projected, from its point of view, then, telecommunications sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), will have no hesitation to allocate 5G licenses to enable mobile network operators(MNOs) in the country to commence deployment of the fifth generation(5G) technology services in the country. But all this is still work in progress as the Commission is currently tinkering with a policy to guide the way this is to happen.

There are compelling reasons for the regulator to fast-track proceedings but it has a tradition not to devise a policy without carrying the whole industry stakeholders along, consistent with its policy of collaboration and consultation, in exercise of the powers conferred on it by the enabling act.

This heads-up is contained in a statement from the Commission and authored by its Director of Public Affairs(DPA), Dr. Henry Nkemadu.

There are compelling reasons for the regulator to fast-track proceedings, but it wants to keep faith with its tradition not to devise a policy without carrying the whole industry stakeholders along, consistent with its policy of collaboration and consultation, in exercise of the powers conferred on it by the enabling act.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (the Commission) is mandated by Section 4(q) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (the NCA), to prepare and implement programmes and plans that promote and ensure the development of the communications industry and the provision of communications services in Nigeria.

In furtherance of this mandate, the Commission considered that the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) Technology will be beneficial for socio-economic development of Nigeria. The technology is an advancement of existing mobile technologies (2G – 4G) with enhanced capabilities providing new and enhanced mobile communications services.

Dr. Nkemadu informs: “Such enhancements include applications like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Drones, Advanced Communication Systems, Cloud, 3D Printing, Mixed Reality, Simulation/ Imaging, Gamification. These will bring improvements in Manufacturing, Transportation, Public Services, Health and Social Works, Agriculture, Energy, Logistics, Media and Entertainment, Mining and Quarrying, Machinery and Equipment, Automotive, Education, Information and Communication, Urban Infrastructure, Consumer experience, Sports, Semiconductor Technologies etc.

The deployment of 5G technologies will consequently promote the National Digital Economy for a Digital Nigeria that will improve the way Nigerians live and work. 5G has been deployed commercially and in use in some countries. As with the previous technologies, the International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has classified radiation from 5G as non-ionizing and therefore safe for human beings.”

Following global trends in telecommunications development of 5G, the DPA said, the Commission in November 2019, embarked on a Proof of Concept (trial) with MTN in six locations using different equipment vendors for a period of three (3) months in which relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were involved in the trial.

According to him, the trial was conducted to enable the Commission assess the performance of the technology in comparison with existing technologies, evaluate compliance to health and safety guidelines and also use the lessons learnt to guide Policy towards commercial deployment.

“The trial which was conducted on the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands was successfully completed with performance showing improvement of 5G over the previous technologies with the radiation levels well below the specified human safety guidelines. The equipment used in the trials have long been decommissioned in all the locations,” he added.

Following the successful completion of the trial and a directive from the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami, the Commission commenced the development of a policy for the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.

In keeping with its powers under section 57 of the NCA, and the need for wide public consultation, Nkemadu said, the process of developing this policy would involve a Public Inquiry which would involve all relevant Stakeholders in the review and consultation process.

The following Stakeholders have been identified: Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, Office of the National Security Adviser, the National Assembly, Ministry of Health, National Environmental Standards & Regulations Enforcement Agency, Consumer advocacy groups, Academia, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Nigerian Medical Association, World Health Organisation, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, Mobile Network Operators, Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Nigerian Institute of ICT Engineers, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria amongst others.

“The Consultative Document is currently being developed and will be shared with these stakeholders and the general public, following which a Stakeholder Consultative Forum will be held. The views of all stakeholders will be considered in the final Policy.

Accordingly, the details of the proposed public consultation will be widely published in due course. 5G will not be deployed in Nigeria until the Policy is concluded and approved,” the DPA said.

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