Business Hilights

Tracking Nigeria's Headline Business News Online

5G and others

5G connectivity not yet for mass market

Ad 2
Ad 3

By Sonny Aragba-Akpore
Despite the hype and build up to the deployment of the fifth generation (5G) networks globally, the connectivity is far from being for all.
While developed economies have put measures in place to cushion infrastructure deployment to make services available,developing countries in Africa and Asia are struggling to join the ruling class of 5G connectivity.
Among the challenges facing network providers in infrastructures deployment include costs of equipment,routers,devices for individuals which are seen as plagues thus making services inaccessible so much that practically everyone scampers for it at a great cost.
In Nigeria for instance,the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released statistics for mobile phone connectivity a few days ago putting the figures at 222.6million as at December 2022 but not a single mention of 5G in the accessment because none is available.
Of the three potential network providers licensed for 5G services in Nigeria,only MTN Nigeria has pegged cost of routers at N50,000 while the other licencees,Mafab Communications and Airtel Nigeria are yet to announce any figure.
This is happening at a time that the government recently announced a whopping N24.2b as funds to deploy wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) in 20 airports and 43 schools in the six geopolitical zones of the country on the eve of the exit of this regime.
While analysts see this as another white elephant project coming at the twilight of a regime that has less than savoury achievements in the telecommunications sector and like the wobbly 5G services,this internet project may be dead on arrival except the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy ,Dr.Isa Pantami who articulated this new project after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting the other day has a magic wand to activate it in 34 days before May 29,2023.
If this does not happen,we will not be surprised because several well intentioned programmes including rural telephone projects,and the much talked about infrastructure companies (infracos) that are now dust caked and have joined the long list of infamy.
But while neither government,nor the promoters of the projects think they owe no one any explanation for the grim realities of such failures,we may sympathize with ourselves on the inability to access 5G services in Africa.
But in what looked like a boost to the acceleration of deployment,the government announced a national 5G policy for network deployment last year.
At the launch of the policy, President Muhammadu Buhari explained that “The national policy includes a deployment plan to ensure that major cities across the country benefit from 5G technologies. “
The policy also seeks to make 5G a major driver of the Nigerian economy, and serves as a catalyst for smart cities in the country and a platform for the creation of jobs that support the local digital economy.”
Minister Isa Pantami stressed the importance of 5G network by listing the potential of 5G to greatly improve users’ experiences with mobile networks and real-time communications.
Commenting on the policy, he said “The policy is designed to achieve the following, amongst others: to ensure effective deployment of 5G to cover major urban areas by 2025; to ensure the security of the 5G ecosystem and the protection of data.”
He boasted that opportunities that come with 5G are enormous and the projection of the government is enviable, but admitted that the cost required to deploy the technology across the country may pose a challenge and slow down its adoption rate.
Telecommunications regulators, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) didn’t pretend about the high cost of deployment as it noted certain challenges that may slow down the effective deployment of the 5G network in Nigeria.
In no particular order,the obstacles include lack of 5G-enabled devices, high deployment costs, shortage of frequencies with sufficient spectral efficiency, and limited niumber of trained personnel with the necessary knowledge of the technology.
Nigeria,s reserve bid price for the 5G network spectrum auction in 2021, was $194.7m (N75bn) and was said to be among the highest in the world, compared to countries like India and South Africa.
In Egypt for instance,the regulator provided 60MHz of 2600MHz spectrum at a reserve price of $150m per 10MHz, while the figure for India was INR4.92bn ($66.2m) and South Africa between $588,000 and $4.5m.
South Africa is the continent’s earliest adopter of 5G roll out of the technology on a temporary spectrum, but amid heavy strain on networks during the pandemic, Vodacom, Rain, and MTN were ordered to suspend that use from November 2021. In March 2022, the country earned nearly $1 billion from its long-awaited 5G spectrum auction.
5G router models that could be bought online in South Africa, carry price tags ranging from R7,499 to R10,899.( about $585) provided by Rain ,Vodacom and MTN SA.
In general terms, Africa’s 5G first movers are facing teething problems that stand to delay their 5G goals. The challenges have revolved around spectrum regulation clarity, commercial viability, deployment deadlines, and low citizen purchasing power of 5G enabled smartphones, and expensive internet.
But Governments in Africa are optimistic that they will one day use 5G to do large-scale farming using drones, introduce autonomous cars into roads, plug into the metaverse, activate smart homes and improve cyber security. Some analysts predict that 5G will rake up additional $2.2 trillion to Africa’s economy by 2034.
5G has been commercially available in South Africa for over three and a half years now but costs of sign on are still high.
In Kenya,Safaricom announced 25,000 KES (Kenya shillings) (about $184) for the router and this appears high compared to the N50,000 announced by MTN Nigeria for the router.
Although the technology makes for a much faster data consumption experience on mobile devices, one of its strongest selling points is for use in a fixed location, where a router would be the ideal gateway to connectivity.This however remains a minus especially for upward mobile people.
5G offers much faster speeds and lower latency than 4G/LTE, enabling households without fixed-line connectivity to get a fibre-like broadband connection.
Rain was the first network in South Africa to launch 5G in September 2019.
Although there was a brief period where its customers could sign up for a contract that included a router, Rain has primarily been providing 5G routers on a free-to-use basis
5G is expected to reach 1.9 Billion by the end of 2023 and 5.9 Billion by End of 2027.

Business Hilights is an online news channel conceptualized and structured to report and track on a daily basis; latest developments in critical business sectors to serve as a one stop news gateway for governments, foreign and indigenous investors.