Endless Possibilities of 5G Rollout

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Emma Okonji writes on the recent demo on 5G trial in Abuja and Calabar by MTN Nigeria

MTN Nigeria, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and its technical partners like Huawei, Ericsson and ZTE, recently demonstrated its capabilities to provide Nigeria with the endless possibilities and opportunities of 5G, also known as the fifth generation technology, which is an improvement on 3G and 4G technologies.

The role of NCC as the telecoms industry regulator in midwifing the processes that led to the successful 5G trial launch in the three cities, is a pointer to the global vision of NCC in ensuring that Nigeria is properly guided in embracing emerging technologies that are driving digital transformation across the globe, through effective regulation.

Addressing global policy makers in the telecoms industry at the 2019 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World in Budapest, Hungary, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, showcased Nigeria’s readiness for 5G rollout, ahead of other West African counties on the African continent. According to Danbatta, “5G represents the future. While we have made tremendous progress since the advent of the global system of mobile communication (GSM) in Nigeria in 2001, 5G will be the bedrock of future communications for Nigeria.”

He said NCC was doing everything possible to ensure that it puts in place the necessity infrastructure that would enhance 5G rollout in the country.

Endless possibilities of 5G

5G is the fifth generation technology, which is an improvement on 3G and 4G technologies in terms of speed of connectivity and endless opportunities for technology innovations.

According to GSMA’s policy position on 5G spectrum, ‘5G is expected to support significantly faster mobile broadband speeds and lower latencies than previous generations while also enabling the full potential of the Internet of Things (IoTs).’

5G will revolutionise our way of life. From education to agriculture, security to entertainment, and governance in general. On education, 5G will transform our educational system. The availability of a fast wireless network will enable virtual learning. For educators, 5G will empower them to reimagine what is possible inside and outside their classrooms. The ability to download high quality, the feature-length documentary in seconds, hosting a guest speaker via hologram or tutoring students virtually in real-time, are all features of 5G.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise healthcare. 5G will make it easier to determine potential diagnoses and decide on the best treatment plan for a specific patient. Additionally, it will help predict which patients are more likely to have postoperative complications, thereby allowing healthcare systems to provide early interventions when necessary. By moving to 5G networks, healthcare organisations can use the AI tools they need to provide the best care possible – from wherever they are in the hospital or clinic.

According to Danbatta, “The future road ahead is yet challenging and these challenges require concerted efforts from all of us; the government, regulator, telecommunication companies and Nigerians in general. The MTN 5G trial demo is a peek into the possibilities of the future across all spheres of our lives.”
Regulatory framework for 5G rollout

In order to ensure a successful 5G rollout in the country, the NCC has put in place, a regulatory framework that will speed up 5G rollout, which MTN Nigeria has taken full advantage to become the first telecoms operator in Nigeria and in the whole of West African countries to demonstrate 5G trial, in preparation for the full deployment of 5G technology network across Nigeria.

Reeling out the planned regulatory framework during the MTN’s 5G trial in Abuja, Danbatta said: “In line with our participatory regulation approach, we will consult widely with stakeholders in developing the right regulatory framework for 5G rollout in Nigeria. We are also not oblivious of the global concerns around 5G network security vulnerabilities and will be working with our parent ministry and security agencies to develop measures to ensure a high level of cybersecurity of 5G networks.

Speaking during the MTN’s 5G trial in Calabar, its chief technical officer, Mohammed Rufai, acknowledged NCC’s regulatory excellence and the critical role that the commission played in creating the regulatory platform for early trial of 5G technology deployment in the country.

Rufai, who explained how NCC’s proactive regulations have made Nigeria the first country in West Africa to carry out 5G trial, said: “We thank all the stakeholders and our partners, especially the telecoms regulator, NCC, for making the birth of this 5G revolution journey possible with MTN as pioneer telecom company in this aspect.”

According to him, “MTN had worked with the NCC in all the stages leading to the successful 5G trial in Calabar in order to let stakeholders see the huge potential, possibilities and the connectivity available to transform all aspects of our life through 5G technology.” During the 5G demonstration, MTN focused on how 5G gives better experience to customers in terms of capacity, speed and latency.

5G potential

Speaking shortly after taking a tour of the exhibition booths during the 5G trial in Abuja, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ibrahim Isa Pantami, underlined the potential of 5G for sustainable growth. According to him, “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.”

On his part, Danbatta said 5G technology would drive speed of connectivity, machine-to-machine applications and ultra low latency. He listed the three major usage scenarios for 5G applications to include enhanced mobile broadband, machine-to-machine applications, and ultra low latency applications. “We saw all these demonstrated by MTN during the 5G trial, and we are looking forward to the manner and ways that 5G technology will enhance the lives of Nigerians and drive national development when fully deployed,” Danbatta said. He added that NCC had in the past, given approval for 2G, 3G and 4G trials in line with the tradition of excellence and operational efficiency at the NCC.

The Chairman, Board of Directors at MTN, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, said: “As at 2001, Nigeria was lagging behind counties like Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Tunisia, who were already having 2G services in their countries at a time Nigeria was still deploying analogue mobile service and the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology, but today, Nigeria has overtaken these countries with the deployment of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G technologies. It is my belief that once we have the enabling environment, service providers like MTN will take charge of further national development, through the provision of services from emerging technologies. With the MTN 5G trial demo, the issue of security will be addressed and rules of engagement will be provided by the regulator, in line with the aspirations of the country in the area of technology development.”

The Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Ferdi Moolman, said: “Pushing boundaries is easier when your aspirations are supported by likeminded people. We are here today because of the support and guidance of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the NCC who provided the trial spectrum used for this.”
“Also key to this achievement are our equipment vendors who shared our vision, and whose capabilities were brought to bear in making the 5G trials across the country a reality. We are grateful for these partners, our customers and everyone who made it possible,” Moolman added.

The Chief Operating Officer, MTN Nigeria, Mazen Mroue, said: “In collaboration with our technical partners and the support of the Federal Government, we are proudly putting Nigeria on the 5G technology map. As we continue to invest in technology solutions to meet the wide needs of our customers, MTN will continue to strengthen these partnerships as we move to build our 5G capacity in future, guided by the standards and spectrum set by the Nigerian Communications Commission.”