Special Focus: NCC and the impending 5G revolution in Nigeria

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  • 5G technology will transform the world by connecting everything with everybody. It will create millions of jobs, it will add billions of dollars to the economy (GDP), and can solve some of our problems such as insecurity and improve governance and efficiency in the society.- NCC 05 April,2020

 

With the signing, on Wednesday, May 5,2021, of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGOMSAT) on the deployment of the fifth Generation Network (5G) the Prof Umar Garba Danbatta led NCC has again put Nigeria on another solid footing and on a head start ahead many other nations.

During the signing of the MoU, an exited Prof. Danbatta, NCC Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) described the event as one “that will facilitate the release of contiguous bandwidth in one of the most suitable Frequency Spectrum band(s) for early deployment of fifth Generation Network (5G) services in the largest market in sub-Saharan Africa.”

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L-R: Engr. Oluwatoyin Asaju, Director, Spectrum Administration, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); Mr. Hadi Muhammad, Executive Director, Finance and Accounts, Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT); Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC; Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, NCC; Chief Uche Onwude, Member, NCC Board of Commissioners; Dr. Abimbola Alale, Managing Director, NIGCOMSAT;  Prof Abdu Bambale, Executive Director, Technical, NIGCOMSAT, and  Engr. Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, NCC, during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Fifth Generation (5G) spectrum on Wednesday in Abuja.***

He said “Amongst the Frequency Spectrum bands allocated to 5G by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU, the C-band (3.4GHz – 3.9GHz) stands out because  its balancing point between coverage and capacity provides the perfect environment for 5G connectivity. The C-band is most suitable and appropriate for immediate deployment of 5G services taking into consideration availability of device ecosystem with 60-70% of global commercial 5G network deployment currently in the band, thus the importance of this Spectrum for early deployment of 5G services in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized.

“For optimal 5G service performance, an average of contiguous 100 MHz of spectrum in the C-band is required by an Operator. However in Nigeria, only 120 MHz of the band (3.4 – 3.52) GHz is available for mobile services while the remaining 680 MHz (3.52 – 4.2) GHz of the band is used by NigComSat (NG-1R) satellites.

He added that “The Commission initiated negotiation with NIGCOMSAT whom in our estimate could make some adjustment to its satellite operation and release part of its Spectrum holding in the band to facilitate the deployment of 5G in Nigeria. The impeccable team at NigComSat proved us right.”

The NCC boss said “The two agencies have been in discussions on how to relocate the operations of NG-1R to the standard C-band 300MHz (3.9GHz – 4.2GHz) potion of the band, which is more suitable in terms of Satellite service offering because end user terminal are cheaper there, while leaving the non-standard C-band 400MHz (3.5GHz – 3.9GHz) portion of the band for 5G use. The cost of relocating the NG-1R is expected to be offset from the proceeds of the auction of the 5G Spectrum.

“The two agencies have developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) detailing all the aspect of this undertaking.”

He is of the believe that the impact of the MoU will strengthen the relationship between the two agencies and also go a long way in making positive impact on the Nigerian economy.

Prof. Adeolu Akande, Chairman Board of Commissioners, NCC is as optimistic of the projected benefits of 5G to Nigeria as Prof Danbatta.

 

While praising Prof Danbatta and his counterpart, the Managing Director(MD) of NigComSat Ms. Abimbola Alale for taking an informed decision in national interest which will consequently foster the deployment of 5G and enable Nigeria tap its full potential, he noted that “In recent times, precisely from the last quarter of 2019, several administrations have begun to license Spectrum for commercial deployment of 5G.  As we speak today, 5G services have already been deployed in United States of America, South Korea, United Kingdom, China, South Africa, Kenya and many more.”

Represented by a Board member, Chief Uche Onwude, Prof Akande pointed out that “Telecommunication evolution from inception to date has led to improvement in user experience witnessed from 2G, 3G and later 4G. The global impact of 4G brought about increases in mobile usage and network performance. 5G will build on this momentum, bringing substantial network improvements, including higher connection speeds, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities. In doing so, it enables new use cases and applications that will positively impact different sectors and improve efforts towards achieving Digital Economies.

“It does not only offer enhanced broadband and ultra-low, ultra-reliable latency communications but also provide massive machine type communications, where a lot of devices will seamlessly connect and independently interact with the internet without human intervention. Thus, enabling several Smart City initiatives.”

The benefits that Nigeria will derive in many facets from 5G deployment are quite huge.

As Roger Cheng, a US based tech analyst pointed out in an article on March 2,2017,  – Not just speed: 7 incredible things you can do with 5G – “The technology promises to change our lives by connecting everything around us to a network that is 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service.

“But it’s not just about speed for speed’s sake. While the move from 3G to 4G LTE was about faster connections, the evolution to 5G is so much more. The combination of speed, responsiveness and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things.”

For D’Arcy Gue, Director of Industry Relations, Medsphere Systems Corporation,  based in Sandy, Utah, USA “The more bandwidth-intensive connected medical devices and mobile devices our hospitals deploy, the more we are straining our health IT infrastructures. Something has to give. Many communications leaders see 5G technology’s real-time high bandwidth and lower latency access as powerful new technology features that are needed to expand healthcare applications’ capabilities and the functioning of medical devices, robotics, and mobile devices. Some say 5G will be transformative.”

It is to the credit of the NCC that the initial fears and apprehensions among Nigerians over planned deployment of 5G have fizzled out as a result of the many public enlightenment programs and publicity employed by the Commission.

While some critics – Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike– read religious undertones to 5G, others erroneously saw it as the harbinger of COVID-19 and also raised other health concerns about it.

The NCC however allayed those misconceptions.

In April, 2020 for example, the Media Team of NCC released a statement titled NCC clears doubts over 5G, COVID-19, and Security.

Signed by Dr. Henry Nkemadu, Director, Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, the statement reads:

“In view of the recent development in which misleading materials with no proven evidence are being circulated to link CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19 with 5G Technology, it has become imperative for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide the following clarifications:

“Firstly, there is no correlation between 5G Technology and COVID-19. 5G is an advancement on today’s 4G technology, designed to transform the world positively.

“Secondly, there is no deployment of 5G in Nigeria at the moment. The NCC back in November 2019 approved trial test for 5G for a period of three (3) months, and the trial has been concluded and installation decommissioned.

“The trial among others was to study and observe any health or security challenges the 5G network might present. Relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were invited to participate during the trial.

“The NCC will continue to maintain its policy of technology neutrality and will continue to encourage Service Providers to deploy the best technology that will meet the needs of the society in a secured and friendly manner.

“The following are some Frequently Asked Questions :
1. What is 5G ?
Ans: 5G is a fifth generation of mobile technology which is an improvement on today’s 4G technology with enhanced capabilities. The 5G technology provides the platform for new and emerging technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data to improve the way we live and work.

  1. Do we have 5G network in Nigeria now?
    Ans: No. There is no 5G network in Nigeria at the moment. What we had was a trial test for 3 months which has since been concluded.
  2. When are we expecting 5G in Nigeria?
    Ans. No exact time frame but when conditions are right and all doubts are cleared.
  3. Do we have spectrum for 5G in Nigeria?
    Ans. Yes, particularly the millimetre wave spectrum from 24GHz and above are available.
  4. Have we given out 5G spectrum to operators?
    Ans. No. It will be auctioned at the appropriate time.
  5. Are there 5G deployment around the world?
    Ans. Yes, in countries like South Korea, China, USA, Germany and others since middle of 2019.
  6. Is the radiation from 5G different from those of 2G, 3G and 4G?
    Ans. No, they all belong to the same class of Non-ionizing Radiation.
  7. Who is going to Allocate spectrum for 5G in Nigeria?
    Ans. The National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) Chaired by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy has the responsibility for allocating bulk spectrum for various services.
  8. Should I be concerned about 5G technology?
    Ans. No, nothing to worry about. Safety and human health are top priority in the design and deployment of 5G.
  9. What are the benefits of 5G ?
    Ans. 5G technology will transform the world by connecting everything with everybody. It will create millions of jobs, it will add billions of dollars to the economy (GDP), and can solve some of our problems such as insecurity and improve governance and efficiency in the society.
  10. Is 5G causing CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19?
    Ans. No, there is no link whatsoever between 5G and CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19.
  11. Should I ignore all the negative narratives I am hearing about 5G ?
    Ans. No, but rely on information from world standards making bodies such as WHO, ITU, IEEE and industry experts for advice when in doubt.
  12. Is there standard limit set for Radiation from mobile devices?
    Ans. Yes, there is radiation emission limits set by the International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) below which the radiation is considered safe for humans.
  13. Are the mobile network operators in Nigeria conforming to the Radiation emissions limits?
    Ans. Yes, the NCC has been regularly conducting measurements of radiation emissions from base stations across the country and they are all well below the set limits.
  14. Is 5G same as Fibre cable?
    Ans. No, fibre cable is a terrestrial technology for broadband that existed for decades while 5G is a new mobile technology for enhanced quality of service as explained in Question 1 above.
  15. Are there other sources of radiation apart from mobile Base stations?
    Ans. Yes, there are other sources of radiation which include television stations, radio broadcasts stations, wifi and so on. They all belong to the class of radiation considered to be safe for humans when operated below the set limits.
  16. Who owns 5G?
    Ans. 5G is not owned by anybody but collection of technologies, standards and processes agreed at the international level by standards making bodies.
  17. Has NCC issued licenses for 5G in Nigeria?
    Ans. No, NCC has not issued any licence for 5G in Nigeria. NCC is technology neutral as such we don’t license technology but assigns spectrum to operators for deployment of any service when allocated by NFMC.
  18. Why are some operators rolling out fibre during the lockdown period?
    Ans. As a result of the lockdown, the amount of voice and data usage has increased by huge amounts and there is need to expand the network to provide optimum quality of service to users sitting at home. Telecom is also critical for information dissemination during the lockdown.

SIGNED
Dr. Henry Nkemadu,

Director, Public Affairs,

Nigerian Communications Commission.

05 April, 2020.

 

As Nigerians eagerly await the implementation of the MoU between NCC and NigComSat, they cannot but hope like Prof Danbatta, that “the impact of this decision knows no bounds and will not only strengthen the relationship between both agencies but would also go a long way in making positive impact on the Nigerian economy.”

 

 

 

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