By Omobayo Azeez
Indications are rife that deployment of fifth Internet generation (5G) technology is inching towards take-off stage in Nigeria.
This is further amplified as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) commenced the process leading to developing a policy framework for rollout of 5G technologies in the country.
Towards this end, the commission has called for stakeholders’ participations in putting the policy framework in place.
In the past few months, the NCC has had to fight vehemently against misleading information making the rounds that 5G is hazardous to human health.
The commission’s dislodgment of such fears is now paying off as serious works have begun to provide a blueprint for 5G operations that must guide the use of the new technology.
NCC, in a document signed recently by Henry Nkemadu, its director of public affairs, said it is doing this in line with the provisions of Section 4(q) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (the NCA).
The section empowers the NCC 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.
“Further to this mandate, the Commission considered that the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) Technology will be beneficial for the 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.
“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,” the document read.
The NCC said these would bring improvements in manufacturing, transportation, public services, health and social works, agriculture, energy, logistics, media and entertainment.
Other industries to benefit tremendously from 5G rollout include mining and quarrying, machinery and equipment, automotive, education, information and communication, urban infrastructure, consumer experience, sports, semiconductor technologies, among others.
In its holistic essence, the deployment of the technologies will 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 NCC in November, 2019, embarked on a Proof of Concept (trial) with MTN in six locations using different equipment vendors for a period of three months.
At the time, relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were involved in the trial.
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.
However, the equipment used in the trials have long been decommissioned in all the locations, NCC said.
In view of the successful completion of the trial and a directive from the minister of communication and digital economy, the commission commenced the development of a policy for the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.
“In line with its powers under section 57 of the NCA, and the need for wide public consultation, the process of developing this policy will involve a Public Inquiry which will 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, and Consumer advocacy groups.
Others are “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 commission informed.
It said 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,” NCC said.