Between NCC and 5G Technology, Tales and Trail of Nigeria’s Digital Economy

Recently, Cheery news came the way of Nigerians that the Federal Government is set to begin the roll-out of fifth-generation (5G) services across the country despite conspiracy theories that have led to the spread of mass hysteria. The information which came through the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, came at a public inquiry on the instruments necessary for the deployment of the technology.

The journey from the moment the COVID-19 pandemic was linked to 5G network to the time of Prof. Umar’s announcement was certainly a long, tortuous one. one that is a textbook and practical lesson on good PR, public policy education, and professional execution. At the stage the Coronavirus pandemic was beginning to gather momentum, John Gregory created what appears to be a connection between 5G and the coronavirus pandemic on a French conspiracy website called Les moutons enragés, which loosely translates as “The rabid sheep.” A January 20 post floated that the millimeter-wave spectrum used by 5G technology and Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, could be related, pointing to reports about Wuhan installing 5G towers before the outbreak. Three months later, conspiracy theorists making similar claims were setting the media space on fire, globally.

Two days after the French blog post, a Belgian newspaper called Het Laatste Nieuws published an interview with a local doctor, who floated the unfounded claim that the coronavirus outbreak could be linked to 5G cellphone towers installed near Wuhan in 2019. The article was taken down within hours, but the theory had already spread to English-language Facebook pages.
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In Nigeria, this got even worse with different ‘experts’ and religious leaders spreading more hysteria and panic over the 5G conspiracy. Given that development in which misleading materials with no proven evidence are being circulated to link CORONAVIRUS or COVID-19 with 5G Technology, it became imperative for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the body saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that the Digital Economy Policy of the Federal Government is accomplished, to calm Nigerians, provide clarification and provide the right information.

Fortunately, one of the instruments for the realization of this Policy is the availability of a robust information and communication network in the country, something which a 5G network will bring about a realization.
In a series of campaigns, media releases and media blitzes it carried out, the commission was at the forefront in sensitizing Nigerians on the issue, giving the benefits of 5G and debunking the fallacies linked to it. It began by notifying the Nigerian Public that there is no correlation between 5G Technology and COVID-19; 5G being an advancement on today’s 4G technology, designed to transform the world positively.

It also debunked the claim that the technology had been deployed in Nigeria at the moment conspiration theorists said it was. The NCC had back in November 2019, approved a trial test for 5G for three months, and the trial has been concluded and installation decommissioned. The trial among others was to study and observe any health or security challenges the 5G network might present. Relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were invited to participate during the trial.

Additionally, following a Senate investigative hearing which gave the Fifth Generation (5G) technology a clean bill of health, the NCC took a major proactive regulatory step by inaugurating a committee to develop the Information Memorandum (IM) for the auction of 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band which will be used for early deployment of 5G services in the country. Prof. Umar Danbatta further inaugurated the 18-member Committee in Abuja recently with NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Ubale Maska as Auction Adviser while the Director, Spectrum Administration, NCC, Oluwatoyin Asaju, is the Committee Chairman.

Speaking during the inauguration, Danbatta had said that apart from developing the IM for auctioning of C-band spectrum for 5G deployment in Nigeria, the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the committee will include the development of an award process to be used under which the grant of Spectrum licenses may be made.
The Information Memorandum (IM) defines the process that the Commission has decided to adopt for the auctioning of the 3.5GHz spectrum band. It will provide information on the Nigerian telecommunications market, details of the Spectrum to be made available, the pre-qualification process, the Auction process, and an indicative timetable. Other ToRs reeled out for the committee by Danbatta include the auctioning of the C-band spectrum for 5G deployment in Nigeria in line with the award process; as well as report regularly/fortnightly to the EVC through the Office of the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services of the Commission on the progress made by the Committee.

With the latest development, the NCC has shown that it will continue to maintain its policy of technology neutrality and will continue to encourage Service Providers to deploy the best technology that will meet the needs of the society in a secure and friendly manner.

Explaining more on the development, Professor Danbatta had explained that the commission submitted the proposal for the rollout of 5G technology to the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and is awaiting approval from the Federal Government to roll out the services.
Telecoms key to Nigeria’s economic diversification- NCC Boss – Voice of Nigeria
NCC Boss, Prof. Umar Danbatta

Recall, earlier, the NCC and the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May to facilitate the deployment of 5G technology. Both agencies signed the agreement on the use of C-Band Spectrum for 5G services in Nigeria at an event in Abuja.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners at the NCC, Professor Adeolu Akande, noted that in recent times, precisely from the last quarter of 2019, several administrations have begun to license spectrum for commercial deployment of 5G. He had stated that 5G services have already been deployed in the United States and South Korea among many more countries in the world.

“Telecommunication evolution from inception to date has led to improvement in user experience witnessed from 2G, 3G and later 4G. The global impact of 4G brought about increases in mobile usage and network performance. 5G will build on this momentum, bringing substantial network improvements, including higher connection speeds, mobility, and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities,” Akande had said.

The Commission has identified the unique benefits and the role 5G can play in accomplishing the objectives of the digital economy, has outlined a plan that will facilitate the deployment of 5G Technology in Nigeria. The 5G communication technology is the next evolution of mobile communications technology which is capable of creating new opportunities for growth in the economy by enabling new and dynamic business models and opening up new opportunities and markets. It also provides tremendous improvements in interpersonal communications with several innovations and services.

5G Technology will initiate several new changes in mobile connectivity with an enormous capacity to boost productivity and grow the economy. These are the key reasons behind the Commission’s drive to ensure the deployment of 5G in Nigeria. Mobile technology has not stopped growing since the commercial implementation of the first telephone system in 1876. It is estimated that by the end of the year 2020, global mobile data traffic would reach a monthly rate of 30.6 exabytes, as compared to 3.7 exabytes in 2015. That is a compound annual growth rate of 53%. Each mobile communications technology brings with it, new capabilities that ultimately transform both work and interpersonal communications.

5G represents the fifth generation in mobile communications evolution and incremental deployment is expected over the following decade. 5G is designed to be a system of systems that will bring flexibility to mobile, fixed and broadcast networks and support more extensive data requirements. The technology will impact the way interactions are done by enabling in some cases unforeseen business models, enhanced lifestyles all resulting in increased productivity. Some of the technologies already being touted include automated cars and advanced manufacturing, Internet of things (IoT) which will enable thousands of connected devices, such as smart energy meters, to work together and share information. These changes and innovations have enormous economic benefits. IHS Economics estimated that 5G would enable USD 12.3 trillion of global economic output by 2035.

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