As FEC okays 5G network policy

In the last edition of this column, we painstakingly x-rayed the sack of the Nigeria’s Power Minister and the consequent replacement with his counterpart in the Works Ministry, which was part of the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meeting held on 1st September 2021.

In the following FEC meeting that took place a week later, precisely 8th September 2021, another deliberation that’s of interest to the essence of this column also happened. In the high-profile meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, a National Policy on the Fifth Generation (5G) Network was approved for the country’s Digital Economy.

The said policy was approved following the presentation by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, and its onward implementation reportedly takes immediate effect. In view of this development, the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) is expected to soonest release the needed spectrum to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) – domiciled in the country – that meet all the required conditions.

The Technical Assistant on Information Technology to the Communications Minister, Mr. Femi Adeluyi – who disclosed this development in Abuja immediately after the Council meeting – reminded that the National Policy had been developed over a period of two years, due to the need for extensive stakeholder engagement as well as ensure adequate public awareness and sensitization.

He, therefore, notified that the stakeholder engagement was “thorough and multi-sectoral in nature”. He also took into account the report of the three-month 5G trials that commenced on the 25th November 2019, adding the report critically reviewed and studied the health and security implications of deploying 5G network in Nigeria. Mr. Adeluyi conclusively stated that the NCC, as the regulator of the telecommunications sector, would continue to engage stakeholders in a bid to develop the regulatory instruments required for the successful deployment of the technology in Nigeria. It could be recalled that sometime in 2019, the Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof. Umar Danbatta disclosed that the agency had approved dedicated spectrum for trial deployment of the 5G network services in the country.

In his words, he acknowledged the evolving trends in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem, giving rise to such technologies as Internet of Things (IoT) applications and Smart cities and communities, among others, saying the NCC was well positioned to jump-start trial of the 5G deployment.

Prof. Danbatta further stressed that the recent licensing of seven infrastructural firms to deploy metro and inter-city fiber and broadband point of Access with a minimum capacity of 10Gbps across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Ni-was in accordance with the “eight-point agenda of the commission for the provision of ubiquitous broadband infrastructures” within the shores of the country in the “Next Level document”.

It’s not anymore news that a lot of misconceptions have been stuck into the mindset of an average Nigerian, hence this topic. Many have been made to believe that the 5G is nothing but a dead zone targeted to consume the entire human race within a shortest time frame. In other climes, most Nigerians are of the notion that the proposed network is just a politicallymotivated missile meant to override the country’s sociopolitical space.

One inevitable fact we, as a people, must embrace is that technology has come to stay not just in Nigeria but across the global community, hence anyone who makes effort to tag it a monster is really taking himself aback. Though it has done several wrongs, the rights emanating from its existence remain innumerable. On the above note, it’s very pertinent and crucial to fully comprehend the meaning and essence of the 5G network.

As the acronym implies, it’s a 5th Generation mobile network. It is dedicated to handle much larger role than that of the already existing ones such as the 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks, respectively. 5G was introduced to elevate the mobile network to not only interconnect people, but equally interconnect and control machines, objects, or any form of devices. It’s meant to deliver new levels of performance and efficiency that would empower new user experiences and connect new industries. The 5G network is meant to deliver multi-Gbps peak rates or faster speeds, ultra-low latency, massive capacity, coupled with more uniform user experience.

It’s imperative to note that the 1G was designed to solely deliver analog voice, 2G for digital voice, 3G necessitated mobile data, whilst the 4G ushered in the era of mobile internet, which we are currently enjoying. In summary, the 5G is a new kind of network in the telecoms sector. It’s a platform for innovations that won’t only enhance today’s mobile broadband services, but equally expand mobile networks to support a vast diversity of devices and services, as well as connect new industries with improved performance, efficiency and cost. 5G is, therefore, an advanced wireless technology that has begun wide deployment since 2019.

It’s worth noting that, as at October 2019, over four million Koreans had access to the 5G network. It’s equally amazing to comprehend that China has for long deployed over 100,000 base stations in her quest for 5G wide usage. Survey revealed that about 150 million 5G mobile subscribers were expected in the Asian country by 2020. Leading international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), alongside various independent medical experts, have confirmed that the deployment of 5G networks leave no adverse health effect and are safe. It’s noteworthy that several countries have already commenced the deployment of 5G and are currently enjoying its numerous benefits. Some of these countries include the United Kingdom, United States, and Korea Republic, to mention but a few.

Even on the African continent, countries like South Africa and Lesotho have equally keyed in. This information is verifiable. Technically speaking, reliable research works indicate that the 5G network offers significant advantages over the current technologies. Some of its advantages include, but not limited to, much lower latency, higher bandwidth, greater device density, longer battery life for nodes and greater network flexibility. On the other hand, the 5G network operates in a highfrequency band of the wireless spectrum, between 28 and 60 Gigahertz (GHz).

It’s expected to add unlicensed frequencies such as the 3.5 GHz to its list of new frequencies for mobile use. This means a lot of bandwidth would be available to the teeming users. The aforementioned factor signifies that the 5G won’t only boost ease of communication among telecom subscribers but equally expand the economic band or prospect of any country involved. Since the 5G mobile network will soon apparently dominate the global telecoms sector, Nigeria as an entity must therefore not act in abeyance than to concentrate on how best an effective and efficient 5G can be duly introduced and utilized in the Nigerian space.

As Nigeria, likewise other developing countries, is still trial-testing her technologies and securities toward creating and launching a wholesome environment for the 5G network, she must acknowledge the key parameters that require apt consideration and attention. Like I have already pointed out in my previous analyses in various platforms and fora, at such a time like this, the authorities imbued with the powers to regulate and manage the telecom space must concentrate on the intricacies surrounding the technicalities and securities of the 5G network towards ensuring it isn’t hijacked by men of the underworlds.

They must, therefore, deploy the needed expertise and mechanism to avert any form of criminalities likely to emerge thereof. This very aspect, which is very crucial and inevitable, might require suitable legislation. More so, it would interest – or perhaps shock you – to realize that over 70% of Nigerians are presently yet to key into the Fourth Generation (4G) Network, let alone the 5G. This is the reason the concerned bodies need to speed up action on awareness and sensitization. 5G has conspicuously come to stay, hence we must focus seriously on how to embrace and welcome it. But mind you, this cannot aptly be done if the needful isn’t duly considered. Think about it!




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