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Home Opinion Nigerian Telecommunication: 5G Attainment, Prospects, and Challenges- Prof M.K Othman
Nigerian Telecommunication: 5G Attainment, Prospects, and Challenges- Prof M.K Othman

Nigerian Telecommunication: 5G Attainment, Prospects, and Challenges- Prof M.K Othman


With a rooftop shot, Nigerian three months trial of 5G is a clear indication that the country has come of age in ICT. MTN, one of the leading GSM service providers in Africa has successfully commenced its 5G network trial in Nigeria. This is the first network operation of the 5G in any of the West and perhaps the East African countries. Three major towns of Nigeria were selected for the trial. The first is Abuja, the most cosmopolitan town located in the center of the country as the Federal Capital Territory. The other two are Calabar, capital of Cross River state located near Southeastern boarder and Lagos, the commercial town located by the side of Atlantic Ocean in the Southwest. MTN is conducting the network trials in partnership with Huawei in Abuja. MTN partners in the two other locations are ZTE and Ericsson for Calabar and Lagos towns, respectively.  

The trial of 5G, fifth generation technology is absolutely a giant stride for Nigeria in communication industry. It is a sine qua non for the ‘Internet of Things (IoT)’, which integrates biotechnology and telecommunication for the advancement of mankind. What is 5G technology and how significant is 5G to achieving revolution in telecommunication?

5G is programmed to transfer large quantities of data instantaneously and accurately for operation of high-tech over sensitive technologies such as virtual realities, augmented realities, streamed Blu-ray quality video, driverless cars, drones and Internet of Things (IoT). 5G is an advanced wireless and fastest technology with actual speeds often of a Gigabyte or two per second and the wide deployment of this technology started at the beginning of this year (2019).

The speed of 5G is better appreciated when examining the comparison between 4G and 5G made during a comparison test with both networks. It was a live demonstration of 5G during the formal launching of the three months trial in Nigeria. 5G took just 15.78 seconds to download a 2.3 GB video on the 5G networks while it took 4G networks exactly 5 minutes, 3.84 seconds to download the same file. This means 5G networks took approximately 5.2 % of the time taken by 4G networks to download the same file using the same device.  Guardian Newspaper, a national daily in Nigeria quoted Mr. Dolapo Adeniji-Adele, a Telecommunication Specialist at MTN, saying “factors like server load, as well as the type of device contributed to the download speed and thus, while download speed on the 5G networks was about 1 Giga bytes per second, it can apparently go as high as 4.1 Giga bytes per second. On the other hand, the download speed on the 4G network was just about 68.2 Mbps, which is a little fraction compared to that of 5G”. he also noted that the 4G network is on the 2600 MHz band while that of 5G is on 26 GHz. Again, 5G infrastructures basically work on cloud-based architecture unlike 4G, which works with  fibre optic thereby requiring laying of cables all over the places. Similarly, the newspaper quoted another personality, Mohammed Rufai, Chief Technical officer, MTN Nigeria, who said “5G offers tremendous benefits in terms of speed, latency (less delays), efficiency and security. This pilot offers a unique opportunity for us to explore use-cases and applications in Nigeria, and we are excited about its potential for our country and our company”.

The Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, spoke after the live demo, when underlined the potential of 5G for sustainable nation growth. “I believe as long as we are able to handle the potential challenges, the deployment of 5G is very critical to our economy, because of so many advantages of 5G, the issue of latency, speed and many more.” He further stressed the importance of providing an enabling regulatory framework to protect the telecommunications infrastructure for efficient use of 5G. He said “on the instruction of Mr. President, he has signed a draft Executive Order declaring telecommunications infrastructure ‘critical national infrastructure’, which has been forwarded to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation for review. The Executive Order is a short-term measure and the President has instructed that a proper legislation be facilitated to deal conclusively with threats to telecommunications infrastructure”. Launching the trial of 5G is certainly one of the giant strides of the new Minister. According to industry watchers, 5G is a transformational change from 4G, it has the potential to provide 20 times faster data speeds and carries a massive amount of data for a large number of simultaneous users. So, users in high-density areas like airports, stadiums or urban areas can still experience the fast speeds and low latency of 5G services.

Readers may recall it is the second time; I am talking about 5G in this column. my article few months a go titled “Updates on Nigerian Inventors: Celebrating Yusuf Sambo, leader of Scotland’s 5G Revolution”. In that I article, I wrote; “5G is a mobile Internet connectivity with prospect of much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections. It is all about making better use of the radio spectrum and enabling far more devices to access the mobile Internet at the same time. This means that whatever a smart phone is doing with 4G, it will do it faster and better providing much higher quality video and audio and making things ‘smarter’. Imagine ‘herds of drones co-operating to carry out search and rescue missions, in a dangerous incidents such as fire, flood, fire assessments and traffic monitoring, all communicating wirelessly with each other and ground base stations over 5G networks. Similarly, imagine driverless or autonomous vehicles communicating with each other and reading live map and traffic data while moving seamlessly to their destination, imagine a pilotless plane”. The article was a story of a Nigerian, an ABU Alumnus who excelled and led Scotland’s 5G revolution. This underlines the importance of 5G now and the future for the billions of ICT users globally and in deed for the whole world. The article can be accessed via;postID=3218711505523346498;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=5;src=postname. Thus, 5G has already opened new opportunities in the highly competitive telecommunications market globally.

As 5G continues to roll out across the globe, with Korea having over 3 millions users of 5G this year and the number continue to increase. Telecommunication service providers are doubling their efforts and strategizing to take advantage of the new high-tech innovation while keenly viewing the market to prioritize areas for future growth.

With the three months trial, Nigeria is aiming at the 2020 for the roll out of 5G networks in several major towns across the nation. National Communication Commission is looking at three strategic areas of interest that will be beneficial to the country, cum Africa. According to the NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Danbatta, areas of focus include enhanced mobile broadband applications, the low ultra-reliable, low latency applications, and the Machine-to-Machine application. He further said the reason of Nigerian effort is because African countries are trying to roll out broadband infrastructure for broadband applications. “So this will spur us on to ensure we put in place the necessary infrastructure,” as he was quoted by the Guardian Newspaper.  In terms of readiness of the Continent for 5G evolution; Danbatta said Nigeria and other countries within the region are trying to reserve the spectrum for the roll out of broadband services. Specifically, Danbatta said in Nigeria, the focus is on 26, 38 and 42 GHz. He noted that these frequencies exist and are not licensed for any other application thus, readily available for use.

No doubt, Use of 5G in Nigeria has tremendous potential to triple the country’s effort in economic emancipation, poverty eradication and transformation into secured, agrarian and prosperous nation. With 5G, the security challenges of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency can squarely be addressed as perpetrators can be precisely be located in real-time and be dealt with. This is because the criminals largely depend on the use of communication to commit havoc and disappear. Use of improved technologies in agricultural sector, industry, transportation, logistics, are other areas that 5G technology become handy and effective. Can Nigeria make the required investment to make 5G operate? To be continued next week







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