In January 2018, the Federal Government of Nigeria said it was in talks with the Indian government to raise USD 100 Mn (NGN 36,211,000,000) that would go into the development of the country’s rural broadband connectivity. The concessional loan has materialized as arranged from the EXIM Bank of India, and this development is ahead of the West African country’s 5G adoption goal.
December last year, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) promised that Nigeria would be ready to adopt 5G in 2020.
He said that even though the commission was not prepared in terms of policy and regulations, it had ignited the necessary frequency bands that will facilitate a transition into fifth-generation connectivity.
In what seems like a commitment to a technology pace it has set for itself, Nigeria has now accessed USD 100 Mn in loan to pursue the improvement of its local connectivity.
The plan began in 2013 with a 5-year committee strategy devised by the Presidential Committee to scale up the developing nation’s broadband growth by 30 percent. The loan deal, after several hiccups, was facilitated by the Federal Ministry of Communications via the immediate past minister Alhaji Adebayo Shittu.
MTN CEO Rob Shutter said September last year that Africa is not ready to adopt the next-gen network, claiming that the continent will be set only in about five years from the time of reporting.
According to him, 5G would be used for very specific cases, and is not the kind of technology for everybody because most people do not need it – given that most phones work well on just 3G. Though he cited other things that must be put in place before the adoption of this network, the launch of Rain 5G in South Africa last year debunked his position.
According to recent statistics from the NCC, broadband subscription stood at 63.2 million while actual broadband penetration increased to 33.13 percent in May 2019. Shittu said this February that he is optimistic that if currents efforts are put together, Nigeria will be able to attain 70 percent penetration in another two years.
“My ambition is two years rather than the five years being postulated,” he enthused. It remains unclear whether Nigeria will attain a 5G status by the end of 2020, especially with the current crawling pace of internet penetration. But with the current USD 100 Mn development, there are high hopes for expansion.
Apart from accelerating high internet speed, the Indian credit facility will be channeled towards the development of solar-based mobile telecommunication masts in rural areas where mass broadband access is highly demanded. According to Shittu, this initiative was adopted to tackle some of the issues tied to the expansion of broadband connectivity.
“The current mast that the telecom operators use is very expensive to maintain. They rely on electricity, and we do not have electricity all around the country. So we have a situation where somebody who wants to build a mast of NGN 40 Mn would also have to acquire a 200 KVA generator and fuel it.
“For this reason, we have redirected our efforts at getting solar-based masts which will also have 50 km radius so that if you have a land area of 100 km, you will have two masts. It is cheap to maintain, and all operators can depend on it, rather than having the rural operators to construct their own masts or lay their own cables.
“We are doing all of these, and I believe that within the next two months, we should have an approval from the Indian Government for work to commence on deploying this to all rural areas in Nigeria.”