Ericsson Nigeria Country Manager, Mr. Peter Olusoji Ogundele, speaks with Emma Okonji on how the planned 5G rollout in Nigeria will scale much faster to boost socio-economic ecosystem. He also speaks about the benefits of 5G and the latest Ericsson Mobility Report. Excerpts:
The latest Ericsson Mobility Report shows that global mobile network data traffic doubled in the past two years, with a projection that 4.4 billion 5G subscriptions are expected by 2027. What were the measuring criteria and how effective are they?
I am glad you asked this because the validity of any findings deeply depends on measuring criteria and methodology. We regularly perform traffic measurements in over 100 live networks covering all major regions of the world. These measurements form a representative base for calculating worldwide total mobile network traffic. The subscription and traffic forecast baseline is established using historical data from various sources, validated with Ericsson internal data, including measurements in customer networks. Moreover, future developments are estimated based on macroeconomic trends, user trends, market maturity, and technological advances.
Ericsson is known for its regular mobility reports. What was the focus of the latest mobility report and what must have informed your decision on this?
This year’s Mobility Report followed the continued evolution of 5G as it scales faster than any previous mobile generation and is on a path to reach 1 billion subscriptions by the end of this year. We also focused on the growing importance of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). We explored how smartphone usage, mobile broadband, and the ongoing worldwide digitalization momentum has doubled mobile network data traffic globally in the last two years.
We make forecasts on a regular basis to support internal decisions and planning, as well as market communications, and this is largely what led us to explore the specified topics in this year’s report.
In the report, Ericsson predicted that 60 per cent of global mobile network data traffic would be 5G networks by 2027. What percentage of this will come from Africa?
The Middle East and North Africa region is forecast to reach nearly 200 million 5G subscriptions in 2027. In sub-Saharan Africa, 4G subscriptions grew by 26 per cent in 2021 and strong growth is expected to continue during 2022. Data traffic in sub-Saharan Africa is also forecasted to maintain an upward trajectory, as mobile broadband-capable devices become more accessible.
Nigeria will be rolling out 5G technology on August 24, 2022. What impact will this bring to Nigeria and Africa in terms of the benefits of 5G adoption and rollout?
The adoption and rollout of 5G networks will significantly boost Nigeria’s socio-economic ecosystem. Possessing low latency and high capacity, 5G will propel the nation’s ambitions forsmart city development, smart transportation, and digitalised healthcare while also boosting industrial automation across the nation.
It is important to note that the seventh pillar of Nigeria’s National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which is on Digital Society and Emerging Technologies, has heavily emphasised that digital technologies would play a crucial role in the growth of Nigeria’s economy. With 5G enabling digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), the rollout of 5G in the country is sure to help the nation realize its digital development agendas.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has long played an important role in social inclusion, improving employment outcomes, and enabling greater access to education and skills acquisition. As the government rolls out 5G in the country we are confident it will lead to inclusive growth and allow large sections of Nigerian society to contribute to the country’s economy.
In Nigeria, some people still fear that 5G will cause more harm than good in relation to its electromagnetic wave, which many believed could cause health hazard. What is your take on this?
The idea that 5G causes more harm than good has for the most part been fuelled by panic with no credible substantial evidence. In fact, expert groups and public health authorities including the World Health Organization (WHO) have done thorough reviews of available scientific studies and have concluded that the balance of evidence does not demonstrate any health effects associated with radio wave exposure from either mobile phones or radio base stations complying with international limits. I also feel it is important to emphasise that 5G equipment, whether it be mobile devices or base stations, meets the same safety standards as the equipment used in current networks.
What is the 5G technology all about and why is the world talking about 5G when the world already has 4G technology?
5G is the most advanced and efficient mobile network we have at our disposal today and is essentially an advanced evolution of the existing communication standards of 2G, 3G, and 4G. Being up to 100 times faster than 4G, its ability to transmit data with extremely low latency is enabling critical communications in real-time – powering digital technologies that are driving digital transformation today.
5G features including faster connectivity speeds, ultra-low latency, and greater bandwidth are what brought the technology much attention in recent years. It is now also seen as a critical tool in driving us towards a more connected and digital society. 5G holds massive potential in transforming Africa’s societies, the region’s industries, and dramatically enhancing the day-to-day experiences of people across the continent. Soon, we will also enable a multitude of services in Africa such as e-health, connected vehicles, and advanced mobile cloud gaming.
Is Africa ripe for 5G technology, considering the poor state of technology infrastructure across countries on the African continent?
Absolutely. Although 5G infrastructure is still in its early stages in Africa, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) across the continent are making significant efforts to boost infrastructure deployment and enhance their networks to increase the continent’s 5G readiness. Governments across Africa have also been leading the way by introducing initiatives to promote infrastructure projects, as digital infrastructure becomes increasingly impactful to the development of the continent’s economy.
As Africa enters the digital age, we know how critical it is that CSPs across the nation have access to reliable and high-capacity network infrastructure and we have been tirelessly working to support them on this journey. Digital technologies powered by 5G such as AI and IoT are promising to usher in new ways of living, learning, and working throughout Africa. Since these technologies rely on the high throughput and low latency provided by cellular networks like 5G, we are committed to working with CSPs in the region to build a digital infrastructure that supports next-generation networks.
What do you think will happen to existing mobile phones and other devices that may not be compatible with 5G network?
I would like to reassure everyone that their smartphones that are not compatible with 5G will not become obsolete or unusable due to the technology. We are still in the early stages of 5G and most of 5G deployment today is done through a non-standalone approach, where 4G is acting as the middleman between the mobile phone and network before allowing the user to jump onto a 5G connection. This approach helps communication service providers roll out 5G more quickly and efficiently than flipping their entire networks with new hardware.
I think it’s also important to mention that the telecom industry has been heavily looking at carrier aggregation, combining the multiple wireless signals of both 4G and 5G networks into one to allow for faster speeds. Carrier aggregation is becoming the foundation for deploying high-performing 4G and 5G networks. As a leading player in the telecom space, we have been committed to fostering innovations in carrier aggregation to help CSPs offer the best connectivity services for every type of smartphone, be it 5G compatible or not.
As a technology solution company, how will Ericsson support telcos in 5G rollout in Nigeria and the rest of African countries?
Our role in the rollout of 5G is to help operators build on the existing network to deliver the 5G experience while minimizing risk and roll-out costs. And we do this through manageable steps, based on well-designed components of multiple technologies in a way that matches their business and technology priorities. With 5G, telecom operators have a new opportunity to maximize use of their spectrum and so they will need to develop their spectrum strategies based on their own business focus, and the frequencies available to them, today and in the future.
Many are apprehensive that 5G rollout will facilitate increase in cybercrime. What is your take on this?
Yes, 5G is being deployed and operated in an evolving and complex threat landscape. However, 5G is, by design, more secure than previous generations. Over the years, we have gained a lot of knowledge and experience from securely managing over 300 networks, and our unique sources of threat intelligence mean we can provide managed security services optimized for future IoT environments, and ready for 5G networks.
The Ericsson Mobility Report also verified that 5G would scale faster than all previous mobile technology generations, and that about a quarter of the world’s population currently has access to 5G coverage. What could be responsible rapid growth of 5G across globe?
The June 2022 Ericsson Mobility Report verifies indeed that 5G is scaling faster than all previous mobile technology generations. While some 70 million 5G subscriptions were added during the first quarter of 2022 alone, we expect that by 2027, about three-quarters of the world’s population will be able to access 5G. And just recently, we announced our plan to enter smartphone-use-case-focused testing and validation of 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTN). The result could effectively mean that a future 5G smartphone could use 5G connectivity anywhere on Earth and provide complete global coverage for wideband data services, including places normally only covered by legacy satellite phone systems with limited data connectivity capabilities. In short, 5G NTN could be the solution to deliver 5G and bridge the digital divide.
How will 5G enhance the use of other emerging technologies like Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Big Data and Data Analytics, among others?
5G is already enhancing our connected lives and paving the way for new innovations. With nearly 29 billion connected devices distributed globally, 18 of which will be part of the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystems. And as 5G adoption grows, IoT is set to take up an increasingly significant role in digitally transforming major industries around the world. Furthermore, 5G and immersive technology are fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and consume information and media. The physical and digital worlds are now bridged, starting with augmented and virtual reality. And it’s hard to talk about immersive technologies without looking into the metaverse which can’t reach its full potential without 5G.
IoT is being supercharged by 5G for industries too. In ports, for instance, the connections the IoT is creating between all post assets – vessels, containers, cranes, etc. – combine to create truly smart ports, paving the way for even more automation. IoT platforms for industries can also help determine how real-time data analytics will bring new opportunities and greater knowledge to benefit an ever-growing connected society. The possibilities throughout every industry sector are endless.
Amidst 5G rollout, what will be the role of Fixed Wireless Access connectivity?
Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is a cost-effective method of delivering broadband to areas with limited fixed (wireline) broadband infrastructure. With 5G, advances in radio technology coupled with increased availability of spectrum improve the consumer experience that can be provided by wireless. With increasing demand for broadband everywhere including increasing investments worldwide to bridge the digital divide, there is a strong market opportunity for 5G FWA offerings.
As millions continue to wait for reliable home broadband, FWA is an efficient and scalable alternative to wired connections. With smart and targeted deployments, our studies show that the investment typically pays off in less than two years, and that’s accelerated by 5G. There’s more to it: 5G can attain internet speeds of 1,000 Mbs which is more than twice as much as 4Gand doesn’t necessarily require you to be close to a tower.