By Chioma Iruke and Grace Udofia
Recently, Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami announced that the policy for the roll out of the controversial 5G network stands at 95 per cent done, thus, the implementation would likely begin before the year ends.
The announcement led to series of debate as to the preparedness of the nation and government for such a huge endeavor.
Apprehensions concerning the roll out of the 5g network included radiation, security, health, coverage and accessibility amongst others. These concerns, the minister insisted has been catered for.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta who also concurred with the minister, asked that “additional spectrum be allocated by the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC). Of course some of these spectrums are ready but we have to get the Federal Government’s approval to go ahead with the auctions”.
Pantami, who said the primary concern of government was to ensure security and welfare of Nigerians in their utilisation of services in the telecommunications sector, blamed the delay in the deployment of the 5G network on conspiracy theories. According to him, investigations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Communications Union (ICU) had debunked conspiracy theories suggesting that the network caused health damages.
In a recent report, coverage data in Nigeria as at December 2019, shows that most rural areas only have access to 89.8% 2G network coverage, while 3G has a coverage of over 74%. The data-centric 4G had only about 37% of the population covered at the same time, with less than 10% connections leading to mobile internet penetration of about 32%.
The NCC responding to this concern, noted that 5G could increase broadband delivery while lowering the price of broadband due to the large bandwidths available to the standard.
The commission speaking on how she plans to achieve this, added that it would integrate 5G networks in the attainment of the national broadband plan, ensure that 5G networks are deployed to provide the recommended levels of connectivity and coverage, and meet the approved quality of service metrics, as well as encourage demand-driven deployment by ensuring that high consumption areas for data are covered.
Explaining further on how the commission intend to ensure that the 5G network worked at optimum level in Nigeria especially as most cities still struggled with the 3G and 4G networks, they noted that: “before 5G networks reach their full potential and become self-sufficient, most carriers will be using existing 4G LTE radio access networks (RANs) augmented with some new antennas. This allows carriers to begin offering improved services while the new physical infrastructure is built.
“For the early stage of Nigerian 5G deployment strategy (2020 – 2021), a Non Stand-Alone approach will involve deployment of 5G equipment on some existing sites, supported by densified networks of small cells.
“The mid-term stage (2021 – 2025) will involve a hybrid approach with new-build 5G sites added to the small cell networks. Depending on demand and ROI, this hybrid scenario may be seen by some as a long-term solution.
“The long-term stage (post 2025) should see Stand Alone networks deployed and will require the largest infrastructure investment.”
Responding to radiation risks which many believe could cause various health hazards such as cancer, the ministry not only debunked reports but noted that results from their trail are far below the ICNIRP specification
“These tests were conducted in accordance with the 1998 ICNIRP guidelines for general public exposure to time varying electromagnetic fields which were in force at the time of the trials. This reference levels are shown in Table 10.
“Results of EMF radiation of the 5G Trial indicates that the highest radiation at 26 GHz millimeter wave at 5m away from source is 4.3 % and at 30m from the source is 0.142 %, while the highest radiation at 3.5 GHz at 5m away from the source is 11.4 % and at 30m away from the source is 1.9 % of ICNIRP Specification of 61 v/m for frequency range 2-300 GHz.
“These results are far below the ICNIRP specification for protection of members of the public in the Guidelines and therefore suggest that no public health hazards are expected from the use of 5G in Nigeria,” it added.
The 5G trail began in 2019 and was conducted in Abuja, Calabar, Lagos, Kano, Abeokuta and Ibadan with MTN Nigeria Communications serving as the Operator.
However, a chat with some Nigerians on the decision of the Federal Government to begin the roll out of 5G, revealed diverse opinions as to the issue.
For Olugbenga Suru a high data user, he said he is not interested in the 5G network not because of the conspiracy theories flying around, but because the 4G he currently subscribed to does not perform without incessant hitches.
George Nwachukwu is of the opinion that the country is not yet ready for 5G, as the network providers are not able to manage the ones they have provided effectively.
“It takes me over two hours to download a 10G file while at work after promising that 4G will be swift and address slow network, so what will the 5G do differently”, he said.
Another user, Anthony Caleb, maintained that he is indifferent about the launch of a 5G broadband. According to him, he will embrace whatever is presented as long as it will work effectively whenever he needs to surf the internet.
Sulieman Isaq said there is nothing wrong with 5G, and that the government is working towards ensuring that citizens of the country have fast access to the internet whenever they are using it.
“I believe it is for our good and it will definitely be more faster than the ones we have been using, why will I have a problem with something that will help me access the internet at the same pace with other developed countries of the work,” he said.