Ahead of the 2020 set date for the roll out of 5G networks in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will look at three strategic areas of interest that will be beneficial to the country, cum Africa. These areas of focus include enhanced mobile broadband applications, the low ultra-reliable, low latency applications and the Machine to Machine application.
According to NCC, Nigeria and other parts of Africa will subscribe quickly to the enhanced mobile broadband application. The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, while responding to questions at the just concluded ITU Telecoms World in Budapest, Hungary, said the reason for this was because African countries are trying to roll out broadband infrastructure for broadband applications. “So this will spur us on to ensure we put in place the necessary infrastructure,” he stressed.
In terms of readiness of the Continent for 5G evolution, Danbatta said Nigeria and other countries within the region are trying to reserve the spectrum for the roll out of broadband services. Specifically, Danbatta said in Nigeria, the focus is on 26, 38 and 42 GHz. He noted that these frequencies exist and are not licensed for any other application.
According to him, the country is waiting in anticipation for the standardization process to be completed at the World Radio Communication (WRC) in Egypt, then we will see how we can go forward with licensing process in the three frequencies.
“The other important step that African countries are taking is to address new forms of social anxiety occasioned by this emerging technology, 5G. There’s also the regulatory anxiety. And therefore to do that, because of the practice we had in the past every service we deploy is normally preceded by proof of concept trial. And the 5G is not an exception definitely there’s going to be the trial as preparations are underway for this important trial to take place, “ Danbatta stressed.
The NCC EVC pointed out that the whole idea behind the trial is to be able see what are the challenges, including security, levels of radiation, power density, whether this is within the acceptable limits provided for the international non-ionization radio regulatory agencies as well as to ensure whatever factors that we need to come to terms with preparatory to commercial deployment of services, which are identified in readiness for commercial roll out of services using 5G.
“This is ongoing in Nigeria. The steps we are taking during the trials will involve the security agencies, who have a say on the security dimension of this new technology when it’s eventually rolled out. So we want to ensure they are fully involved at this trial state for the purpose of advising on the elements of the security concerns we should accommodate in the regulatory frameworks that will guide the deployment of this service if it eventually becomes commercialised, “ Danbatta noted. Furthermore, the EVC revealed that African countries are exchanging information and experiences on what they are seeing, the promise of the 5G roll out in the area of enhanced Broadband mobile services in individual countries as well as addressing the anxiety of the citizens by giving the information that will make them receptive to this branch of important technology that is emerging that’s virtually here. “Whether all African countries will be ready by 2020 for the roll out of commercial 5G services is something I cannot answer immediately, but I know our state of readiness is such that spectrum is being reserved in many countries, there are trials going on in many African countries, and Nigeria is getting ready to do this trial, “he stated. On safety and security concerns raised by stakeholders, Danbatta said there was need to have an idea about the levels of radiation from the devices, the devices we intend to connect, especially bearing in mind the levels of devices connectivity density that 5G will be driving.
According to him, million devices in an area of a kilo meter by kilo meter, where most of these are domestic appliances used at homes. He said concerns will arise as to whether the levels of radiation coming from these devices conform to the non-ionization standard for devices, adding that the manufacturers of these technology and services are saying that they are safe, but the regulator will need to check so that subscribers of this new service can be assured. Speaking on the role of infrastructure and spectrum to 5G, Danbatta said “without pervasive infrastructure the dream of roll out of 5G services will remain what it is, just a dream. On this we need to share experiences. In Nigeria, we have divided the country into seven zones, and each zone has been assigned an infrastructure company to deploy broadband infrastructure.“We have also put in place an excellent initiative of spectrum trading, meaning; you just don’t hang on to a spectrum that’s not going to be put to use to deploy services. You can trade the spectrum, lease it or transfer it to another operator.”