Entrenching 5G network technology in Nigeria, By Zeenat O. Sambo

…in order to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks for improved digital services and economy, NITDA, NCC and other stakeholders in the ICT industry are expected to ensure the formulation of regulatory framework to ensure the creation of new opportunities for Nigeria businesses at home and abroad which will in turn encourage massive investment in the country.

It is gratifying that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and MTN Nigeria are set to launch the 5G technology in August in the effort to entrench the digital stream across the country. This giant stride has again depicted another win towards achieving a more robust and vibrant digital ecosystem in Nigeria.

Being the agency responsible for coordinating the 5G network deployment, NCC said it would ensure the deployment of the spectrum to accelerate Nigeria’s broadband growth through the support of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta, announced, in a press release, that commercial operators would begin rolling out 5G services on August 24, as confirmed by MTN.

Meanwhile, the 5G spectrum is a range of radio frequencies in the sub-6 GHz range and the millimeter wave frequency range that is 24.25 GHz and above. Simply put, it is a higher grade of network that brings substantial improvements over 4G networks, including higher connection speeds, greater capacity and low latency.

Therefore, with these increased performances, 5G networks can enable new cases of use with easy connectivity and expansion.

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were widespread concerns about health implications arising from the 5G roll out, but leading international organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have established that the deployment of the 5G network does not cause any adverse health effect or complication.

While the clamour for a wider spectrum to serve the proliferation of internet users daily is on the rise, many people are wondering what benefit the 5G spectrum/network could primarily offer in upscaling the digital economy.

It is on this note that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)’s commitment in implementing the national digital economy policy for digital Nigeria is more geared towards directing its policies in the adoption of 5G technology for a more robust and sustainable digital ecosystem.

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… it is also expected that the midband 5G technology and services will improve healthcare, education, public security and response times. The effective deployment of the 5G network in urban areas will enable network operators to equally deliver ultrahigh-speed broadband services to suburban and lower-density areas, supporting home and business applications that are prohibitively expensive to lay.

With more connected devices and increasing data traffic per user, 5G networks will be faced with greater capacity demands than previous generations of mobile devices and more diversion of enterprises seeking digital solutions will be enhanced with appropriate applications.

However, technological analysis has revealed that upgrades from 2G to 3G networks, as well as further advancements to 4G, enabled significant increases in the benefits that economies derived from mobile technology. Experts have predicted that the 5G networks would generate about $960 billion in GDP by 2030, with the mid-band spectrum driving most of these gains.

Again, it is also expected that the midband 5G technology and services will improve healthcare, education, public security and response times. The effective deployment of the 5G network in urban areas will enable network operators to equally deliver ultrahigh-speed broadband services to suburban and lower-density areas, supporting home and business applications that are prohibitively expensive to lay.

More communities will be able to connect to the internet via ultrafast, reliable connections, bringing telemedicine and remote education closer and helping them to work smarter. This will also enable operators to provide new and improved services to consumers, while handling growing data traffic.

Apart from that, 5G technology will enhance reliable mobile internet services for mass gatherings, enable more startups to access the internet faster, participate in NITDA programmes and use available resources to develop market-creating digital solutions.

Currently, many startups across the country are seeking to improve the quality of service delivery and reduce costs in order to remain competitive globally. One potential area for the development of the digital economy is in expanding 5G deployment, with the ensuing services and opportunities that arise from ubiquitous connectivity.

Breaches in data privacy and protection will be improved by security agencies and stakeholders, in curbing cybercrime through the adoption of 5G, as more startups, investors, and financial institutions seek to harness the power of global connectivity.

To achieve this goal, NITDA’s engagement with startup ecosystems should focus on increasing digital literacy among youths by establishing startup hubs, providing continuous training programmes, and funding innovative solutions to drive the development of new digital solutions and boosting indigenous content in Nigeria’s ICT sector.

In term of monitoring and evaluation, through collaboration with relevant agencies, 5G networks can help agencies ensure that all devices connected to networks are configured with the appropriate security protocols to protect private data.

The impact of the 5G network in improving virtual health standards and consultation is being driven by health startups like Clafiya, Myclinic.ng, Lafiya Telehealth and others. The new technology will enhance connectivity and facilitate better diagnostics and treatment by healthcare professionals. Hospitals with high-tech gadgets such as ECG machines, digital record archives and treatment will witness improved functionality, thereby preventing hitches in the network when administering treatment to patients. This will help bring affordable healthcare services closer to people in remote locations.

Automated cars, massive manufacturing, and the Internet of Things (IoT), among other emerging technologies, are being supported by 5G. These technologies will enable thousands of connected devices to work together, share information with minimal human interaction, and promote digital activities.

Also, IoT related applications are expected to enhance productivity and reduce costs in manufacturing by accelerating digital transformation. The enhancement of 5G technology in smart cities and smart grids will drive a boost in productivity and the creation of new revenue streams.

In food security, 5G networks will enable smart agriculture/farming, including the monitoring of crops and livestock, once it is widely available for full implementation. Farmers, when provided with technology, will benefit from the potential of a vast collection of sensors located in fields that are able to identify with pinpoint precision which areas need water, are prone to disease or require pest management, among others.

However, in order to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks for improved digital services and economy, NITDA, NCC and other stakeholders in the ICT industry are expected to ensure the formulation of regulatory framework to ensure the creation of new opportunities for Nigeria businesses at home and abroad which will in turn encourage massive investment in the country.

To achieve this goal, NITDA’s engagement with startup ecosystems should focus on increasing digital literacy among youths by establishing startup hubs, providing continuous training programmes, and funding innovative solutions to drive the development of new digital solutions and boosting indigenous content in Nigeria’s ICT sector.

Zeenat Sambo writes from Abuja.


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