Apology to the readers of my Column as the continuation of this piece was unavoidably missing last week due exigency of my official engagements. Now back to the topic, Nigerian three months trial of 5G, fifth generation technology in 3 selected towns; Abuja, Calabar and Lagos from October to December, 2019 simultaneously. As reported in the first part of the article, the deployment of 5G is very critical to the nation economy, because of so many advantages of 5G majorly due to latency and speed of the 5G Internet service compared 4G networks. Comparison of 5G and 4G networks were made during the live demonstration of the two networks while formally 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.
As clearly articulated in in this column two weeks ago; there is no doubt, use of 5G networks 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 networks, the security challenges of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency can squarely be addressed as perpetrators can precisely be located in real-time and be dealt with according to the law. 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 networks technology become handy and effective. Can Nigeria make the required investment to make 5G networks operate?
This was the question posed and needing an honest answer. Nigeria has all the natural resources and wherewithal to invest and make 5G networks fully operational for the benefits of Nigeria and in deed West African sub region. However, many things need to be put in place. The first is addressing the power sector and make it meet the national power requirements for domestics and industrial uses. Over several years, the power sector has failed Nigerians and cannot provide adequate electricity supply to domestic households and industrial producers despite the country’s endowment with the largest deposits of coal, oil and gas in Africa. On the average, only 40% of Nigeria’s population is connected to the energy grid or enjoy power supply of not more than four hours a day. In several energy grids connected areas some days can go by without any power at all without any official explanation of the power outage and with absolutely no apology to the consumers. Mildly put, power sector in Nigeria is moribund and cannot supply more than 5,000 MW over 24hrs to the population of over 200 million people. This is in spite of having over 12,500 MW Electricity Generating Plants capacity across the nation. Nigerians have massively lost confidence in power sector because of its high level of unreliability. This is why Nigeria becomes the largest consumer of electric generators in the World. The GSM service providers are using millions of GSM towers littered in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria and absolutely powered with electric generators 24/7. Many of us become sad when we visit other African countries and find such countries enjoying stable power supply and then ask, when are going to overcome the issue of energy crisis in Nigeria? Fundamentally, 5G Networks require efficient and reliable supply of quality electric energy at all times. Well, power supply in many countries is taken for granted and thus, not being a considered issue of consideration in the requirements of 5G Networks.
5G networks have high connection density and can provide up to a million connections per square kilometre compared with 4G, which has a typical connection density of not more than 2,000 connections per square kilometre. With the increase in popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) applications such as Smart Wearable Technology, Smart Home Technology, Smart Cities, Smart Grids and the rest, the high connection density of 5G is a vital capability that will enable Mass-Machine Time Communication (M-MTC) use cases and satisfy the demands of a digital society.
Thus, to successfully operate 5G, there must be facilities to transform Core Network Functions of the current 4G networks into Virtualized Network Functions, whereby service applications are deployed in Data Centers on cloud-based platforms and the Cloudification of application programs. This means that the IT infrastructure for 5G must be up scaled from multi-cloud to hybrid cloud to store and generate data as well as optimize the infrastructure performance through automation. These requirements entail capacity building of the technical operators as well as investment for acquiring both soft hard ware facilities for the 5G-network technology. Consequently, the 5G network service providers need the right tools, processes and skills to architect, migrate and manage that houses business application of the network
Globally, partnership between public and private sectors champion the deployment of 5G-network technology because of the business orientation and outputs of the network. Many initiatives on 5G are currently ongoing. According to the online publication of Journal of Telecommunications System & Management, in USA, the three main activities carried out on 5G are: Intel Strategic Research Alliance (ISRA), 4G Americas and NYU Wireless Research Center. In China, it is the 863 Research Program and IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group. In Japan, the 2020 and Beyond Ad-Hoc Group is under the ARIB’s advance wireless communications study committee. In Korea, the main activity is the 5G Forum. The most important initiatives in EU are the 5G Private Public Partnership (5G PPP) and the 5G Innovation Centre (5G IC), at the University of Surrey, in UK.
Some of the most attractions of the 5G networks are the Area traffic capacity of minimum of 10 Megabits per second per square meter for downlink, which can go as high as 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) with connection density of one million devices per square kilometer. These attractions make 5G the most indispensable tool to the entire business world, technocrats, academia, security and all those interested in the advancement of humanity.
Universally, the private sector is the main driver of 5G technology being a veritable venture for exponential profit making. However, government has regulatory functions as well as provision of infrastructural support to the technology operators. The biggest beneficiary of 5G technology is government in form of economic development and jobs creation to the nation. In Nigeria, we are still battling to overcome the rudimental issues of development such as water, electricity, roads etc, which are being taken for granted in even less developed nations like Nigeria. In spite of these challenges, Nigeria can do much more to facilitate the deployment of ICT. One critical area needing support is use of satellite for Internet Services in the country. Less than forty percent of Nigerians have access and affordability of quality Internet services in whichever level such as 2G, 3G or 4G. Nigeria launched two communication satellites between 2007 and 2011.
Nigerian Communication Satellite (NigComSat-1) was second Nigerian satellite and the third African geosynchronous communication satellite, when it was launched at 16:01 UTC on 13 May 2007, aboard a Chinese Long March 3B carrier rocket, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China. Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NIGCOMSAT) operated the spacecraft. Its design was to provide coverage to many parts of Africa on C-band and Ku-band, a global navigation beam on L-band and the Ka-band transponders with spot beams over Nigeria, South Africa and Europe. On November 11, 2008, NigComSat-1 failed in orbit after running out of power due to an anomaly in its solar array. The failure of NigComSat-1 resulted into the launching of a new Nigerian communications satellite, NigeComSat-1R into orbit by China in Xichang. This satellite was supposedly paid for by the insurance policy on NigComSat-1, which was de-orbited in 2009. The satellite was aimed at positively impacting on national development in various key sectors of communications, Internet services, Health, Agriculture, Environmental protection and national security. Is the satellite serving Nigeria and Africa in these areas? How effective are these services? What roles can NigComSat-1R make in the deployment of 5G in Nigeria? To be concluded next week.