By Clifford Agugoesi, Editor-in-Chief
The most recent Advisory from telecommunications sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission( NCC ), was aimed primarily at neutralizing conspiracy theorists linking the fifth generation(5G) technology to the devastating coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but eagle-eyed watchers and analysts see it also as a veiled invitation to telecoms investors to come to Nigeria and invest, especially in 5G technology, that is gaining traction globally.
To the mobile network operators, the advisory should be seen as an opportunity for them to upgrade their networks and bring the benefits of 5G to their subscribers, courtesy of the superfast speed that the fifth generation mobile network is capable of delivering . With COVID-19 around the corner and even post COVID-19, those who are knowledgeable about the telecoms scheme of things say heavy email users will not be the only ones to benefit in terms of faster upload speeds, but users across a broad spectrum of industries. In a world where consumers create more of their own content (helped by new media) and make phone calls from their personal computers and where the move to delivering software as a service(Saas) has gained momentum, faster upload speed becomes critical.
Perhaps, this explains why the Nigerian Communications Commission sees 5G as the future. And, MTN Nigeria saw this future early enough and has begun to create it via its successful trialing of 5G across select cities in Africa’s largest telecoms market, even as the regulator readies the 5G policy and the telco keeps its 5G commercial launch strategy to its muscular chest, and Airtel Nigeria, Globacom, 9mobile and Ntel watch the space with keen interest, what with the multi billion dollars in network upgrade investments that must come to keep competition keen.
NCC’s advisory notes: “5G wireless technology is meant 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 provide twenty times(20X) faster data speeds and carries a massive amount of data for a large number of simultaneous users. So users in high-density areas – like airports, stadiums or urban areas – can still experience the fast speeds and low latency of 5G service.
As the world replaces more and more household items with ‘smart devices’ that connect to the internet, also known as the Internet of Things, this network capacity will be critical. 5G will potentially be able to handle more than 2.5 million connected devices per square mile. 5G is a transformational change from 4G.
5G will enhance technological development because of the extremely fast transfer rate of large quantities of data. Overall, it enables interconnected devices for instant communication. This is a new connected world of ‘Smart cities’ made possible by 5G networks.
5G is extremely fast: it supports data transfer rates of up to 20Gbit/s, if supported by robust fibre infrastructure. On top of that, wireless data delays drop to one millisecond. This opens up the potential for multiple driverless cars, where large quantities of potentially lifesaving data have to be transferred almost instantaneously.
5G network is designed to carry data up to 10 times faster than 4G networks. This means HD movies can be downloaded in seconds.
“5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). 5G is 10 to x100 faster than 4G.The use of shorter frequencies (millimeter waves between 30GHz and 300GHz) for 5G networks is the reason why 5G is so fast.
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.
5G represents the future. While we have made tremendous progress since the advent of the global system of mobile communication (GSM) in Nigeria, 5G will be the bedrock of future communications.”
The GSMA’s Policy Position on 5G spectrum syncs with the Commission on the promise of this technology wherein it says: “5G is expected to support significantly faster mobile broadband speeds and lower latencies than previous generations while also enabling the full potential of the Internet of Things.”
So, when MNOs are sufficiently persuaded on the need to go 5G, what happens? As an experienced telecommunications engineer told us recently, “what will happen is that there will be an appetite for network expansion among the MNOs, which sends a very strong signal to the OEM community to start readying to jostle for jobs. Do not forget, these had been around and kept vigil on the MNOs waiting for the right time to show up which is now!” If the MTN Nigeria 5G trial is instructive, three equipment vendors-Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson were activated, but it is not clear at this stage if all three will play when MTN goes…full blast with Commercial 5G launch or, indeed, if there would be new entrants.
And, there is no denying the fact network expansion projects by MNOs would excite investment opportunities not only for telecom gear makers and suppliers but to the entire telecoms value chain.