BY CHUKS OLUIGBO
Nigerians are on course for improved digital services as winners of the country’s 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum licence, MTN and Mafab Communication, get set to deploy the fifth generation (5G) technology by August 24, 2022.
The August 24 timeline for 5G deployment came through a directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Thursday.
NCC’s goal is to enlist Nigeria as one of the leading nations with the 5G technology deployed in a manner that is beneficial to all stakeholders and contributes maximally to the Digital Economy Policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Garba Danbatta, NCC’s executive vice chairman/CEO, said at the 90th edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament in Lagos.
Danbatta had earlier said at a separate forum that e-commerce platforms and fintech in Nigeria would benefit immensely from 5G technology once deployed.
“Digital services and contents being provided by SMEs, especially fintech and e-commerce firms, will leverage broadband infrastructure and the upcoming deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) network being driven by the Commission to deliver more innovative and high-quality experiences to consumers,” he said.
5G technology is the latest innovation in cellular technology renowned as the fastest-deployed mobile communication technology in history. It guarantees higher connection speed, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities to communications services. This means quicker downloads, much lower lag, and other connectivity benefits that are expected to make businesses, especially fintech and e-commerce firms, more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster than ever before.
“The main advantages of the 5G are a greater speed in the transmissions, a lower latency and therefore greater capacity of remote execution, a greater number of connected devices and the possibility of implementing virtual networks (network slicing), providing more adjusted connectivity to concrete needs,” according to iotsworldcongress.com.
Ericsson, a world-leading provider of telecommunications equipment and related services to mobile and fixed network operators globally, said in its June 2022 Ericsson Mobility Report that 5G technology is projected to exceed one billion global subscriptions in 2022 from 660 million estimated subscriptions at the end of 2021, and reach 4.4 billion or 75 percent of the world’s population by 2027.
MTN, Africa’s largest telecom company based on revenue and number of users, and Mafab Communications Ltd, incorporated in 2020 and licensed to provide and operate local interconnect and international carrier services, have made their full payment of $273.6 million each for the 5G spectrum licence to the NCC.
“The final letters of award have been issued to MTN and Mafab Communications, which emerged winners of the 3.5GHz Spectrum auction conducted on Dec. 13, 2021,” Danbatta said on Thursday.
“In line with the information memorandum, the licensees are expected to commence rollout of 5G services effective from Aug. 24, 2022. The successful completion of the process leading to the final letters is confirmation that the rollout of 5G technology services in Nigeria is on course,” he said.
Chinedu Ezeigweneme, a representative of MTN Nigeria, confirmed that the telco giant has put all plans in place and discussed with relevant stakeholders.
“I can assure you that come Aug. 24, MTN will roll out 5G services,” Ezeigweneme said.
Bako Wakil, director, technical standards and network integrity at NCC, expanded on the timelines. He said MTN and Mafab are expected to complete band clearance and commencement of rollout by August. By June 2023, they would have completed rollout of services in at least two states in each geo-political zone of the country. By June 2024, the operators are expected to have rolled out services in at least six states in each of the geo-political zones, and by June 2025, they are expected to have completed a pan-Nigeria rollout of 5G.
He allayed the fears of those who think that 5G deployment would disenfranchise them from the network, saying the 5G network would co-exist with its predecessor generation of wireless networks.
“In most parts of the world, the successor generation of mobile networks does not supplant the predecessor generation networks, until when it becomes very necessary to decommission the oldest generation network. While 4G is H2M interaction, 5G is M2M interaction,” he said.