As Nigeria is assumed to be the giant of Africa, there is every need to be at the forefront in terms of technological and economic headways. The country thrives in the tech ecosystem, but needs to reclaim its grip on its envious status as the emerging market’s fastest growing tech economy. This issue has a strong relationship with the poor last mile broadband penetration and infrastructural gaps. According to a report by GSMA, only 4 percent of mobile subscribers in Nigeria use 3G technology, and four percent are using 4G, compared to the 18 percent 4G penetration in South Africa and Angola’s near-similar 16 percent. In spite of this, GSMA opines strongly that Nigeria can kick itself back into pole position with regards to African technology developments, especially if it charts a course towards the adoption of emerging fifth-generation network services currently making strides across various world economies. GSMA also reckons that tech, while being dynamic, only values those who stay abreast and adopt its latest births.
While launching the report which it titled Spotlight On Nigeria: Delivering A Digital Future, the trade body that speaks for the interests of mobile network operators across the world, couldn’t help but admit that Nigeria’s mobile connectivity has brought about an improvement in the welfare of Nigerians. But the body counselled that sustaining that would entail the constant adoption of the latest innovations, such as the 5G network.
Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck, supportively offered that alongside the development, mobile connectivity has opened doors to new digital possibilities while powering Nigeria’s economic development. He implored the industry and the government to concert efforts to enable the right policy environs for millions more to benefit from ultra-fast mobile broadband.
Goodluck revealed that if policies are not apace with the needs of society and technological innovation, it implicates the risk of citizens being left behind while contributing to the suffering of productivity and competitiveness. According to him, modernising regulations and reforming policies will be essential in up-swinging 5G adoption in Nigeria and indeed her digital economy, which will culminate in accelerating internet access for millions through increased mobile broadband penetration.
Meanwhile, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta, has pledged that Nigeria’s readiness to adopt 5G will be realised in 2020. While speaking in a meeting between NCC and GSMA in Abuja as regards the facilitation of the 5G policy and spectrum, he said that in spite of NCC’s un-readiness in terms of policy and regulations, it has taken a full kick to start the processes and reserved three frequency bands to facilitate the adoption of 5G.
He, as well, affirmed that Nigeria would do everything in her power to lead the way in innovation and new tech developments, given that the world’s leading economies have become dependent on mobile communications. As mobile communication is a cardinal tool for economic development, growth, and integration, the mobile industry is the key enabler of productivity across economies and societies, according to Danbatta.
Another research by Mckinsey Global shows that more than 75 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the year 2025, with global economic contribution toggling between USD 3.9 Tn to USD 11.1 Tn annually. This report further stresses the need for the development of smarter and efficient ways to utilize already limited available resources in a bid to maximize the gains of these technologies.
5G is not about today, but about progression. As pointed out by Danbatta, there are still trial networks around the world to put people in the know about what’s to come in the near future. The entirety of the technology mixes is used to build bridges digital gaps and bring service to the unconnected and the marginally connected.
President of the Nigerian Institute of Information Communication Technology Engineers (NIICTE), Austin Igbe, said that the cost of not adopting technology is higher than the price of ignoring it. As such, Nigeria needs to be critical about the health and safety implications of the current trends, and brace properly to make regulations that would protect Nigerians from the adverse effects.
Projections point out that the 5G rollout would increase internet connection speed, and its trial testing with the Eko Atlantic Project will further drive broadband data and connectivity to allow people interact with connected devices for health status purposes, and remotely control home appliances without physical contact.
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Meanwhile, global technology solutions provider Ericsson, which has operations in Nigeria, has used its most recent edition of the Ericsson’s Mobility Report to project that 5G would reach more than 20 percent global populations coverage with enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023. The report states that this would make 5G the fastest generation of cellular technology to be rolled out on a global scale, and the cellular Internet of Things (IoT) connections would over-cross the 3.5 billion-threshold in the next five years.
Impediments do come prior to the adoption of new technology, and in Nigeria’s 5G spectacle, it is the lack of adequate infrastructure and regulations. But Danbatta affirms that NCC is already working to smash the fences between Nigeria and 5G connection, ahead of the 2020 rollout.
In his opinion, the factors limiting growth and innovations in the telecoms industry stem from government policies, regulation, and performance of the network. With this in mind, Danbatta opines that innovation and growth promotion needs to be kick-started by the development of strategic policies, the provision of essential infrastructure, enhancement of competitive markets alongside robust regulatory frameworks, focused compliance and the facilitation of new idea exchange among others.
He also urges mobile network operators to develop a culture that encourages and rewards innovation, identity, and design novel business models to enrich their insights from other regions and industries.
In a conversation with WeeTracker, the GSMA highlighted three factors that will likely facilitate the adoption of 5G in Nigeria. “We have identified the support for and the release of the harmonised spectrum and a modernised licensing framework as fundamental building blocks for future growth in Nigeria.” The organisation emphasised three core facilitators:
- The harmonisation of 1427-1518 MHz and 3.3 – 3.6 GHz, and making these bands accessible to mobile.
- Identifying new IMT bands for 5G, such as the 26 GHz.
- A review of the licensing framework and the removal of redundant licensing conditions.
The GSMA also told WeeTracker that mobile connectivity has so far improved the lives and welfare of Nigerians in many ways. “According to the Economic Impact of Mobile Ecosystem FY 2017, USD 21 Bn was the total value added to Nigeria’s GDP, which represents 5.5 percent of the total GDP”. The organisation also revealed that 500,000 direct and indirect jobs were created and that the total tax contribution of the mobile ecosystem in 2017 was USD 1.8 Bn, which is equivalent to 16 percent of the government tax revenue.
How Will 5G Impact Nigerians Come 2020?
“The current focus for Nigeria should be to make the country 5G ready while noting that it already lags in 4G adoption. Therefore, laying the groundwork in terms of spectrum allocation, assignment and licensing reform would set the stage for more advanced services and a bigger positive impact in the near future.
In comparison to previous mobile networks, 5G is all about bandwidth speed. For example, downlink peak data throughput could reach 20 Gbps, while uplink peak data rates could be as high as 10 Gbps. 5G will as well reduce latency and improve overall network efficiency – looking at end-to-end latency requirements of less than 5ms.
The future impact of 5G will be seen in the growth of the digital economy and the types of services that can be offered. For example, 5G is expected to deliver an increasingly integrated mobile/video customer experience, ultra-reliable low-latency communication for machine-to-machine and public safety applications, while serving as an alternative to fixed broadband connectivity.
5G will also be a platform that will foster innovation, spur further developments and scale the Internet of Things (IoT). It will support growth in Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), industrial automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)”, GSMA opines.
“5G will change the wireline architecture that currently supports 4G mobile backhaul by increasing the requirement for backhaul significantly. Existing base stations will need fibre, rather than copper and densification, which will mean many more small cells,” GSMA told WeeTracker.
Nigerians are eager for the 2020 5G rollout on the backs of its benefits and global projections. The anticipation makes the promise no short of an exciting one, as it would surely bring about improvements and high-speed connection with the world beyond.
Feature image courtesy: howtogeek