Nigerian Telecommunication: 5G Attainment, Prospects and Challenges III
In the previous segments of this article, I presented the giant effort of Nigeria to catch up with the world on the 5G networks operation. MTN, perhaps, the vastest GSM service provider in Nigeria is the main driver of this effort to make 5G networks available to Nigerians. The importance of 5G to the economic development, food security, poverty eradication and the emergence of ‘Internet of Things (IoT) was equally highlighted. Worldwide, 5G networks became very attractive to all categories and diversity of people because of ultra-speed of Internet service with minimum capacity of 10 megabits per second per square meter for downlink. This can go as high as 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) and 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, health, and agriculture and in deed all facets of human endeavors. Globally, these attractions put the private sector on the driving seat for adoption and promotion of 5G networks.
Similarly, the rudiments for successful adoption and utilization of the 5G were also presented. In Nigeria, we are still battling to overcome the rudimental issues of development such as water, electricity, roads etc., which are taken for granted in even less developed nations like Nigeria. Electric power and Internet service are sine qua nons for making 5G networks available to people. On the Internet service, Nigerian multi millions US Dollars investment in launching satellites was discussed at the closing paragraph. Readers may recall Nigeria launched two communication satellites; NigComSat-1 and NigComSat-1R between 2007 and 2011. These satellites are in addition to the two-weather/disaster monitoring satellites; NigeriaSat-1 and NigeriaSat-2, which were launched earlier.
Nigerian Communication Satellite (NigComSat-1) was the second Nigerian satellite and the third African geosynchronous communication satellite. The satellite was launched on 13 May 2007 at 16:01 GMT, aboard a Chinese Long 3B carrier rocket, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China. Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NIGCOMSAT) operated the spacecraft. It was designed 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 second satellite was supposedly paid for by the insurance policy on NigComSat-1, which was de-orbited in 2009. The cost of NigComSat-1 at was estimated to be 32 billion Naira, which covered launching and ground station. 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?
The purpose of communications satellites is to receive and relay the signals around the curve of the Earth allowing communication between widely separated locations irrespective of their distance apart. From 1957 when Russia launched the first satellite in space to today, there are well over 2000 communication satellites in the world today, each launched in to orbit above the earth’s surface by different organizations or countries to operate at a specified range and frequencies in order to eliminate interferences of radio signals. These satellites are basically into three categories depending on their distance from the earth surface. There are Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites with a range of distance between 160 to 2,000km from the earth surface, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites with a distance between 2,000 to 35,000Km and Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites with a distance over 35,000 km from the earth surface. GEO satellites are seen to be stationary because their movement is the same relative to the earth’s rotation. They revolve around the earth at 360o in every 24 hours.
No doubt, the Nigerian investment in satellite technology is highly impactful on many areas. The technology has brought an effective and cheaper means of communication within and outside Nigeria in the last two decades. The satellite terrestrial coverage has made it an exclusive medium used by all telecommunication devices such as TV, Radio service, mobile telephone, and many others. The satellite easily transmits or transport electronic data to any part of the world at a very great speed in the real-time process without interruption when doing so. In almost every household in towns and villages across Nigeria, smart telephones and satellite televisions are the most common devices for entertainment, information dissemination and communication. Similarly, satellite technology is impacting on health, education and agriculture in the country with the aid of the Internet and effective communication. Internet access is presently very active in Nigeria due to the communication satellite it uses. Nigerians receive and offer online educational programs in many parts of the world.
Courtesy of satellite technology, Video calls over the network (like Skype) has made it possible to consult experts in any part of the world for expertise intervention in several areas. Experts provide their expertise to medical issues, education, agriculture, commerce and the rest through video calls. During video calls, they appear as if they are right there in the same room with the people seeking such expertise or skill.
On the economic front, launching and use of NigComSat-1R project was estimated to save more than $900 million spent for telephony trucking and data transport services for users of the satellite in Africa. Similarly, $660 million was expected to save from phone call charges and broadband access. The technology was to create more than 150,000 jobs for Nigerians and several other millions of people in other countries.
Well, NigComSat-1R is operational but far from meeting these expectations because of varieties of reasons. Technically, Nigeria has only one communication satellite compared to United States of America, which has more than 17 satellite stations. The United Kingdom has at least five operational satellites. Most of the countries with communication satellites have more than one. Nigeria needs to have a second communication satellite. Thus, it is necessary to have minimum of two communication satellites for effective utilization and backup of data. This will certainly attract satellites users in Nigeria and other African countries to patronize Nigeria. It will build confidence of the major satellite service providers. Nigeria relies heavily on Russian and Chinese engineers for launching and maintenance of the satellite, which is a big challenge to the nation building, economic survival, national security and global competitiveness. There is need to reposition and restructure the Nigerian geniuses and talented individuals working in ICT establishments for attaining a common goal of making NigComSat system effective, efficient and sustainable. Africa is currently being dominated in all spheres militarily, medically and educationally to the control or near complete dominance of the communications technology space owned owned and operated by developed countries. Why should Nigeria not be in this competition?
5G wireless is the technology of 2020 and the world is gearing up for mass adoption. Monica P. R, the CNN Business correspondent reported that many International companies are making huge investment in preparation of the 5G networks. She reported “the deployment of 5G is helping companies like Ciena, a networking equipment firm, reported a strong 2020 earnings outlook…” base on the 5G adoption and operation in the Western World.
In conclusion, Nigeria is a huge market of ICT and 5G network is providing window of opportunity for Nigeria to make a giant step out of poverty and massively create wealth, increase productivity and sustainable economic growth. The current minister of Communication, Dr Pantami is an indefatigable ICT guru who precisely knows what to do to make 5G network available, accessible and affordable to the generality of Nigerians. The ball is in your court Mr. Minister. Nigerians are anxiously waiting to use 5G network in 2020.