Subscribers Count Gains of 5G Roll Out by MTN


As MTN Nigeria pioneered the pilot roll-out of 5G technology last week, subscribers have begun to experience high-speed internet connectivity on its network, ahead of the full commercial roll-out in seven cities, writes Emma Okonji

History was made on Wednesday, April 24, 2022, when MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, one of the winners of the 3.5GHz spectrum licence for 5G rollout, gave access to some customers with 5G enabled devices in Lagos and Abuja to experience high-speed internet connectivity that is associated with the 5G technology.

Although MTN had a pilot rollout to further test its 5G network, ahead of its commercial rollout across seven cities, some of the subscribers who had the 5G experience on Wednesday, were excited at the high-speed internet connectivity of the 5G network, with almost zero latency and super clear picture quality of downloads. Some of them were however surprised about the high rate of data consumption within the period they were connected to the 5G network.

5G Experience 

 A few subscribers who shared their 5G experience with THISDAY, said they were excited at the incredible connectivity speed with zero latency to complete each task, coupled with the clear voice quality and picture quality of downloaded online materials. They however said the data consumption rate appeared much higher than the 3G and 4G networks.

Mr. Philip Okonkwo, one of the MTN subscribers with a 5G enabled smartphone who experienced the 5G technology on the MTN network from Lagos, described the experience as mind-blowing. 

“The 5G experience is awesome because of its incredible high speed of connectivity, but my challenge with it is that the rate of consumption is on the high side. What it means is that subscribers must have enough data to experience the swiftness of 5G. People that manage data cannot use 5G for now, except the operator work on the fast data depletion rate, which I think will be a thing of concern to many subscribers. It is however a technology of choice. Those that cannot afford the data will rather remain with 3G and 4G technology,” he said.

Another subscriber to MTN, Mr. Tunde Shobajo who also shared his experience with 5G technology, told THISDAY it was a wonderful experience to be on the 5G network because of its high download speed. “In seconds, I was able to download movies of two gigabytes and three gigabytes. Though it consumes data faster, the experience cannot be compared with the data depletion because the download speed is extremely fast and saves a lot of time,” Shobajo said.     

Some staff of MTN who have experienced the 5G technology on the MTN network, shared their experience with THISDAY. One of the staff said: “5G is the technology to flow with. It has a very high connectivity speed with near-zero latency in completing tasks. I invite all MTN subscribers and all Nigerians to connect to 5G technology to have the awesome experience.”

MTN’s Readiness   

So far, MTN Nigeria Communications Plc has shown its readiness to offer Nigerians the best of service with 5G technology. The company, which intends to launch 5G services in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri, and Maiduguri, is testing the next-generation network infrastructure. 

According to MTN, customers with certain enabled devices would be allowed to connect with and try out the new service where coverage is available. 

To access the 5G network and enjoy its benefits, customers will need compatible devices, such as routers and mobile phones, which can be pre-ordered from designated MTN walk-in stores and online via the MTN Nigeria website and e-marketplace. The pre-ordered devices can be picked up or will be delivered to customers post the launch event scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.  

The advanced technology promises to extend the reach and capacity of MTN Nigeria’s data network in Nigeria and enable much faster speeds and lower latency, giving customers near-instant access to the things they care about and downloads that take seconds, instead of minutes.

Giving details of its readiness to boost subscribers’ experience with 5G technology, the Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria, Adia Sowho, said: “Every major technological evolution redefines what is possible – changing the way we live and the way we connect. MTN Nigeria has been at the forefront of every leap in telecommunications: from GSM to 2G, 3G, and 4G. 5G has the potential to change everything. It will allow us to connect, create, collaborate, and compete in ways we have not even begun to imagine.” 

Mafab’s Readiness

 Mafab Communications Limited, the second winner of the 5G licence auction, has not shown any sign of readiness from the very day it was declared the winner of the 5G licence.

Payment for the licence it won was initially an issue for the unknown telecom operator which did not have a telecom licence, but it however managed to make payment for the 5G licence fee on the last day. 

But with barely two days to August 24, 2022, which was the rollout date for MTN Nigeria Limited and Mafab Communications Limited as mandated by the NCC, the telecoms industry regulator, Mafab Communications in a statement, said it got a five-month extension period from NCC for its 5G rollout.

The Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Reuben Muoka, who confirmed the development to THISDAY, said NCC decided to extend the rollout date for Mafab alone because Mafab does not have an operating licence to roll out a 5G network. 

“The 5G licence comes with frequency licence and not operational licence. So Mafab only has a frequency licence and does not have an operational licence and it needs to apply for a telecom operational licence to enable it to roll out 5G services and other telecom services. The five months extension will enable Mafab to process its telecom operational licence” Muoka said. 

THISDAY gathered that Mafab was issued a five-month extension following the delays in receiving its unified operational license (USAL) and Numbering plan, which did not happen until the end of July. 

In the statement issued by Mafab Communications, its Chairman, Dr. Mushabu Bashir, however, said: “We are fully committed to bringing the benefits of 5G services to Nigerians and deploying a network that will drive economic development with increased broadband capabilities Nationwide. I do not doubt that the service will help deliver improvements in the fields of education, business, smart cities and entertainment.

The benefits are far-reaching as the service will enable Nigerians to achieve more with broadband and increase the nation’s broadband penetration, quality of service and capabilities, Bashir further said.

Industry stakeholders who are worried about the development, are beginning to question the NCC on the rationale for allowing Mafab to bid for a 5G licence when it has no telecom operational licence, a development, which they said, would slow down 5G network rollout in the country. A telecom operator who pleaded anonymity said it was wrong for the NCC to have allowed Mafab Communications Limited to bid for a 5G spectrum licence and that it was also completely wrong of NCC to issue a 5G spectrum licence to an unknown operator who has no telecom operational licence to roll out 5G network.    

5G Spectrum  

The spectrum issued to MTN Nigeria as one of the two successful winners of the 5G license bid holds a promising future for technology in Nigeria, and is projected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy by 2034, according to a 2020 GSMA Intelligence report -”The Mobile Economy”. The implementation of 5G will accelerate the actualisation of the national targets in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, as well as other sectoral policies designed to enhance Nigeria’s digital transformation. 

With the MTN 5G launch, leveraging the largest spectrum dedicated to 5G in Africa, Nigeria will join a handful of African countries that have rolled out the 5G network. 

The NCC had in December 2021, auctioned two slots in the 3.5GHz spectrum in a keenly contested bid process among MTN Nigeria Communications Plc, Mafab Communications Limited and Airtel Nigeria Communications. At the end of the exercise, the NCC declared MTN and Mafab winners of the two frequency slots and gave them a timeline to make payment for the 5G frequency licence before issuance of the licence.

NCC further said in a statement: “The 5G network, when deployed, will bring a lot of benefits and opportunities that will engender accelerated growth and smart living in the country. The technology is also expected to bring substantial network improvements, including higher connection speed, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities.”

While the licensees are expected to meet the timetable regarding their 5G network rollout obligations, NCC called for the collective efforts and support of the private sector and government toward transforming every aspect of the nation’s economy through 5G, which it said, would herald greater transformation than what the nation witnessed with the 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G.

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