NCC Raises Concern over Poor Infrastructure in Planned 5G Auction

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By Emma Okonji

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reiterated its plan to auction the fifth generation network, otherwise known as 5G network that is currently being deployed by developed economies.

It, however, raised concern about the poor state of power infrastructure in the country, which the regulator said, could mar the deployment of the technology in the country.

MTN had in December last year, did a trial launch of 5G in three cities in Nigeria, in preparation for the rollout of 5G across the country.

NCC, however raised fears of successful deployment of 5G without adequate power infrastructure.

The regulator, which stated this at the just concluded Social Media Week 2020 in Lagos, identified inadequate fibre coverage and poor state of power infrastructure as factors that could slow down 5G deployment across the country.

It therefore called on the federal government to prioritise adequate power generation and distribution in the country to address the challenge.

Speaking on the theme: 5G Network Deployment- Social Economic Benefits and Challenges, the Director, Technical Standard and Network Integrity at NCC, Mr. Bako Wakil, said 5G remained a clear departure from 3G and 4G networks.

According to Wakil, “5G also known as IMT 2020 has been designed with huge capability and requirements for today and future need. Having carried out successful trial in the country, the next is commercialisation, but we have identified the erratic power situation and low fibre infrastructure as major limitations to 5G deployment on a large scale in Nigeria.”

While NCC can comfortably address the fibre infrastructure gap, Wakil said “power generation and distribution is not within our purview of NCC, but we are working with the relevant agencies to see what can be done.”

In his contribution, at the panel moderated by NCC Head of Online and Special Publication, Dr. Niyi Ibietan, the Commission’s Assistant Director, Spectrum Administration, Mr. Kenneth Uzoekwe, said lots of spectrum have been identified by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Uzoekwe, who represented the Commission’s Director of Spectrum Administration, Mr. Austin Nwaulune, said about six spectrum at higher bands have been marked down, “they are available, but yet to be assigned.”

According to him, 5G’s importance and beauty also lies in the availability of spectrum. He stressed that whenever Nigeria is ready for commercial deployment of 5G network, there would be some re-assignment of some spectrum to fast track deployment.

On what 5G holds for Nigeria if successfully deployed, Uzoekwe said broadband would improve, leading to faster download and upload of contents; encourage financial inclusion, faster health care service delivery, smarter transport system and appliances.

Addressing the gap created by inadequate power, Wakil said though solar technology and inverter could be deployed to cell sites relatively, but raised security fears of possible theft of the solar panels.

Wakil assured Nigerians that NCC would do everything possible to ensure that the National Assembly members pass the Critical National Infrastructure Bill into law, adding that the passage will deter social miscreants from willfully damaging telecoms facilities, knowing the consequences.