At the just concluded 5G/GSM@20 forum organised by e-Business Life Communication Limited as the country maps out the process of deploying the fifth generation (5G) technology while marking the 20th year of GSM launch in Nigeria, stakeholders have called for a well-articulated process of deploying the new technology to avoid service disparity among Nigerians.
The event, which held on Friday was meant to draw input from telecom stakeholders on ways to ensure that Nigeria utilizes the full potential of the 5th generation technology in driving a digitalized economy.
Speaking on the theme of the forum, “Setting the Stage for 5G Journey – Requirements, Deployment and Challenges”, the Keynote Speaker, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, spoke of the successes recorded in the 20 years of GSM evolution, and enumerated the need for 5G technology in the country.
The EVC, who was represented by the Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity (DTSNI) at NCC, Engineer Wakil Bako, said that before the 5G wheel is set in motion, certain milestones are expected in place and like other countries, the NCC is setting the stage for 5G roll-out in Nigeria.
Tracing the evolution of generation of mobile network from 0G to 4G and now 5G, the EVC defined 5G as new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks and was designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together.
Danbatta, said that the new technology is meant to deliver higher multi-GDPs peak data speed at ultra-low latency; more reliable and massive network capability.
He said that consumers should expect higher performance and improved efficiency in user experience and connection to new industries.
He however, listed 5G requirements from the administrative angle to include; availability of adequate spectrum, regulatory policy, stakeholders awareness programme, conducive atmosphere for investments and reasonable regulatory charges.
Expatiating further on the need for 5G, the EVC said it will lead to huge boom in mobile usage, stressing that the huge growth of wireless network equipment and machines with communication-enabled capabilities attest to this fact.
“Already, over 22 billion IoT devices already connected as at 2018 and expected to reach 100 billion connections by 2030. Technology is no longer rated by speed but by latency (instant response) and 5G was designed for massive intelligent connectivity of things. 3G and 4G networks cannot meet these demands. So, 5G is to meet the demands that 4G, 3G and 2G cannot provide, particularly in areas of latency and massive connections”.
He also disabused the minds of telecom consumers who thought 2G, 3G and 4G must give way for 5G; adding that 5G will co-exist with its predecessor generation of wireless networks. “In most parts of the world, successor generation of mobile networks does not supplant, until when it becomes very necessary to decommission the oldest generation network”.
Prof Danbatta enumerated some of the challenges that face the deployment of 5G, explaining that in other to fiberize the towers/base stations, the issue of Right-of-Way (RoW) must be well addressed; also inflation and increasing exchange rates should be addressed; and subjecting the barrage of IoT devices to Type Approval process within limited timeframe should be considered.
“The current tower capacity of 1 Gbps (for 2G to 4G services) does not match the 20 Gbps peak speed required for 5G. This calls for the urgent need to increase fiberization of network, and the reliable energy supply to power the base stations.”
Despite the challenges, Prof. Danbatta said that 5G was designed to meet the very large growth in data and connectivity needs of today’s society, the IoT with billions of connected devices, and future innovations.
Speaking on behalf of the President, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, Engr Ikechukwu Nnamani, the Executive Secretary of ATCON, Mr. Ajibola Olude called for its members to be IPv6 compliant to be able to have a compatible system that will easily link to the 5G technology.
“For us at ATCON, 5G should be discussed in readiness of telcos to migrate to IPv6. Presently, most of our networks are on IPv4. The networks have to be compliant to the global trends.
There is also need to ensure the security of the networks as 5G is discussed with Spectrum management. There is also need to note that we will need more base stations; and what different States charge is quite exorbitant. For instance, in Lagos, our members are writing us to complain about the charges.
IoT should be considered where almost everything will be connected. And issues around privacy must not be neglected.”
Earlier in her welcome address, Mrs. Ufuoma Emuophedaro, the Publisher, e-Business Life Communication Limited, traced the journey of 20 years since the first call on the GSM network in Nigeria was made.
She said it was no longer news that the telecoms sector in 20 years, have significantly transformed the government, businesses and individuals with great impact on every area of life.
“Chief among these contributions includes increased contribution to GDP, addition of nearly $80 billion in foreign and local direct investments; and the ability of Nigerians to communicate through the mobile phone and the opportunity to carry out several transactions/activities on the mobile phone, while on the move”.
She aligned with the NCC on the expectations that the deployment of 5G technology will spur services that will stimulate growth in different sectors of the Nigeria’s economy, including the health, education, financial and commerce sectors.
Chief Project Manager, Digital Encode Limited, Simileoluwa Oyediji, spoke on the need for the government to find ways of reducing cost, especially knowing that operators will spend so much more in deploying 5G across the country.
He further harped on the need for security, stating that aside the security features embedded in the 5G technology, further care should be taken as cybercriminals are not resting, but devising ways of breaking through the security features. He advised all stakeholders to use multi-layer security architecture, and users to maintain security consciousness, while the government and operators must engage in constant enlightenment campaign to inform and educate the masses.
At the Panel Session which had its discussion topic as “5G: Adoption, Infrastructure, Service as critical Elements for Competitive Digitized Economy” the panelist agreed that infrastructure need to be prioritized, and Spectrum pricing dropped is 5G will have the desired effect in Nigeria.
CEO of Ajo Media, Mr. Aaron Ukodie said that InfraCos are expected to be the legs through which 5G can be deployed across the country. “For instance, we expect them to take fibre to our homes, public spaces or metropolitan networks for more seamless signals. But the inability of the InfraCos to rollout services should be looked into”.
ICT Editor at This Day Newspaper, Mr. Emma Okonji agrees that infrastructure is key. He said the public should believe telcos as they declared readiness to deploy equipment for 5G.
“However, the issue is whether other stakeholders like the States are ready too, because without infrastructure, it will be difficult to achieve 5G deployment. We want to give them the benefit of the fact, because honestly we need to get the internet services to the hinter lands.
Okonji, however, called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to review the price for 3.5GHz Spectrum downward to encourage telcos to bid for it.
According to him, the current price tag of N75 billion will likely discourage the telcos’ from participating in the bidding process.
Speaking on readiness of telecom operators to invest in 5G equipment, Mr. Ajibola Olude said that the present economic climate situation of Nigeria discourage investments in the telecoms sector, especially with regards to the exchange rates fluctuations.
He also lamented the position of most State Governments which are yet to adhere to the N145 price cap per linear meter on Right-of –Way.
In his words, “Lagos State charges over N1000 per linear meter for fibre deployment. There is even charge disparity between mainland and Island (higher rates). So the Federal Government should engage more with the States to understand why the N145 cap should be maintained.
Sourcing of dollar to buy equipment is too cumbersome and not encouraging”, Olude said.
From security perspective, Simileoluwa Oyediji said it cannot be over-emphasised how 5G will enable encryption and other privacy issues.
He however, said that infrastructure remains critical. “Government needs to step in and normalize things. For instance, how many people can afford 5G smartphones. We need them to connect and make good uses of 5G.
“Innovation also comes with its own disruptions; therefore, service providers need to develop their own skills. We shouldn’t rely solely on international vendors for deployment. We need to groom local talents because 5G will drive IoT, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, etc.
“Also, we need to look at the power issue because the mini-cells distributed close to the consumers will require such capacity to achieve the end-goal. It boils down to government’s ability to support the telcos and other service providers to ensure consumers can afford the rates.
“For security, we have to continue to improve as the innovations are launched”, he concluded.
The event also featured the presentation of Awards to the NCC and Digital Encode for their role in ensuring growth in the industry. While the NCC was adorned with the ‘Technology Transformer Award’, Digital Encode Limited bagged ‘Cybersecurity Mastery Award’.
In attendance were media personnel from different media houses; the Chairman of the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi; the Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde and other stakeholders.