NCC Should Release The Report Of 5G Trial By MTN Nigeria

Courtesy of MTN Nigeria, Nigeria scored a historic first by becoming the first country in West Africa to try out 5G equipment and applications. The telco held a live demonstration in Abuja, north central, Nigeria, while its 5G demonstration train railed to Calabar, south south, and Lagos, south west in addition to other 5G trial to be ran in other cities in the country.

MTN Nigeria achieved this feat in collaboration with OEM vendors – Huawei which held sway in the Abuja trial, while Ericsson powered the one in Lagos and ZTE took charge of the one in Calabar. Details of the trial in other cities were not available to us at this time.

Telecommunications sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC), did explain what this was all about. In addition to telling the nation that 5G had great economic potentials for Nigeria, NCC also hinted on plans to make PUBLIC its FINDINGS with regards the recent trial in Nigeria. From the moment that pronouncement was made, it became a promise that remained a debt until liquidated!

In its latest release announcing its readiness to convene a Public Inquiry on 5G Technology, pursuant to a policy that would guide the deployment of the technology in the network, the NCC , through its Director of Public Affairs(DPA) Dr. Henry Nkemadu, reinforced the Commission’s stance to see 5G services benefits to be the portion of telecommunications consumers in the country.

Dr. Nkemadu alluded that the trial by MTN Nigeria 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 said.

Currently, the Commission is developing the Consultative Document which it hopes to share to industry stakeholders to ostensibly solicit their input into the enduring document. The stakeholders have been identified as follow: Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, Office of the National Security Adviser, the National Assembly, Ministry of Health, National Environmental Standards & Regulations Enforcement Agency(NESREA), Consumer advocacy groups, Academia, Nigerian Society of Engineers(NSE), Nigerian Medical Association(NMA), World Health Organisation(WHO), Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria(COREN), Mobile Network Operators(MNOs), Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers(NIEEE), Nigerian Institute of ICT Engineers, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria(ATCON), Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria(ALTON), et cetera.

We believe the Commission will be doing just justice to the industry stakeholders if it respects and fulfills its earlier promise of releasing the outcome of the MTN Nigeria 5G trial. It will just be appropriate if this is done before the Public Inquiry on 5G and the Commission is strongly urged to do so. It is, to our mind, in tandem with the supposed regulatory sequence of things as it is the right thing to do. We are convinced that the Commission has no history of doctoring or “padding”reports and will release an objective assessment of what transpired, giving deserved credit and discredit to the ecosystem players, if the need arises.

There are other reasons we think releasing the result of the MTN Nigeria 5G trial is imperative other than the ones identified above. And, we will attempt to dimension them. Publishing the result of the test will validate the regulator’s claim and stance as an unbiased umpire. And, because tests are a foretaste to glory, the regulator shall have assured industry stakeholders that the quality of service (QoS) Key Performance Indicators(KPIs),with which it would evaluate the telcos are not going be deployed at its whims and caprices, but in conformity with international industry standards and best practices.

It is not debatable that the NCC is a regulatory champion in Africa. Releasing the result of the MTN Nigeria 5G trial will serve as a worthy example for other regulators in Africa and other climes to emulate not to talk of FDI inflow this power of example expressly conveys and is capable of attracting to Nigeria.

To the telcos, the results will serve as a veritable substrate for MTN Nigeria, specifically(being the first mover), and the other telcos to craft their 5G blueprints in terms of Low Band, Mid Band and High Band, although Millimeter waves appear to be highly favoured and provide the true 5G experience with over 2 Gigabit(2Gb) per second, from the perspective of speed.

To the OEM vendors, making the results open will further validate the regulator’s technology-neutrality as the real or imagined benefits and diseases of their gears shall have been a matter of public scrutiny and enable them retouch their gears, devices and apps as it further validates Nigeria’s current stance of not joining the ranks of countries like the USA and China, among others, in their high-gear 5G politics that potentially has viral consequencies globally.

To the Testing community, other telcos, Globacom, Airtel Nigeria, 9mobile and Ntel joining the bandwagon means business. And with 5G Testing Market estimated to grow at 11.5 per cent annually, according to Frost & Sullivan even as Marvell reported stronger-than-expected demand for 5G services as at Q1 2020, these as well as other telcos elsewhere can only make strategic moves to get a slice of the cake!

To the policy community, releasing the result of the 5G trial will assure them the regulator is diligent in ensuring regulation serves the best interest of all stakeholders, even as it has the tendency of massaging their egos policy drives regulation!

To the legal community, especially members of the 9th National Assembly, releasing the result of the MTN 5G trial will clear their minds of whatever doubts they might still be having that instigated their miragy probe and come to accept the fact that 5G has absolutely no linkage with the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic!

To the investment community, releasing the result of the MTN 5G trial will also drive positive communications to the national, sub regional, regional and international investors that Nigeria is open not only to all businesses in a generic sense, but also telecommunications investments including businesses in the 5G space, in specific terms.

What will releasing the result of the MTN Nigeria 5G trial do to the telecoms consumers and watchers of the consumer space? A lot. As at May 2020, China 5G subscribers were more than 65million! About the same time, EE’s 5G networks have reached 80 UK cities. Already, telecoms subscribers, many of whom spoke with and sent us emails, expressed their dissatisfaction with the pace of things in the 5G arena as with proceedings in the arena of previous generation of technologies-2G, 3G and 4G. Now, at least, this growing army of subscribers (190.8 million, as at April 2020) cannot wait to experience 5G as their counterparts in other climes.

The NCC should not make the mistake of presuming industry stakeholders would consider its scathing mention of the successful completion of the MTN Nigeria 5G trial, in its recent press statement, as the final report. The Commission, just like the highest court in Nigeria, the Supreme Court, whose judgment on any legal matter is final, must see itself as the final arbiter on telecommunications regulation and release the result of the MTN Nigeria 5G trial without fear or favour. It must not allow anybody else, not even consultants that may have facilitated the process, or even the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, to declare the result on its behalf. When the Minister apologized to MTN Nigeria, at the Abuja 5G demo, for the delay in releasing trial 5G spectrum to it… not a few industry watchers frowned at the gesture, because, they believed and rightly too, it was not his remit to do so as we had said before now.

We are aware, following trends in other climes, that the result expected from the regulator, does not necessarily have to reflect the minutest details of the trial, although we believe it will not be criminal, on the part of the regulator, to do so. Knowing what detail to release or withhold, is purely NCC’s business, but the result that is eventually put out in the public domain, should be able to give a good insight into the test and its outcomes. We urge the Nigerian Communications Commission, therefore to, without further delay, release the outcome of that 5G trial by MTN Nigeria, ahead of the proposed date for the Public Inquiry on the 5G Technology, yet in the pipeline.

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