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NCC silent on bad 4G experience, joins GSMA for 5G roll-out in 2020

At a time many Nigerian digitally minded telecoms subscribers are gnashing their teeth on the nasty experiences in accessing and making use of 4G LTE following rollouts by networks in the last few years, the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has claimed that “Against all odds, Nigeria has confirmed her readiness to roll out 5G network by 2020”.

Head of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, had at a workshop on the future of industry: Driving Innovation and Growth, organised in partnership with the Global System for mobile Telecommunications Association (GSMA), noted that while the country works to perfect 3G and 4G, “we shouldn’t be left behind, as other countries are already in tune with 5G. We must also make efforts to get ourselves ready for the next generation network. ”

Danbatta, who agreed that the factors that affect growth and innovation in the Telecom industry are government policies, regulation and performance of the networks, agreed that if Nigeria must innovate, “We must develop strategic policies, provide essential infrastructure, enhance competitive market, robust regulatory frameworks, focused compliance monitoring and enforcement mechanism, reform our spectrum access mechanisms, among others.”

Giving insights on the workshop, the Head of sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck, who was also mute on the challenges Nigerians face in accessing the prevailing 4G LTE already rolled out by all MNOs, argued that there is nothing stopping Nigeria from meeting up with 5G standards.

However, he was quick to agree that “All that is needed is to improve infrastructure and enthrone good policies”.

Business Hilights had on November 27, 2018 published a research story titled: ‘Are Networks Deceiving Nigerians On Availability Of 4G LTE?—Xalam Report Opens Up,’

The publication followed a new report released by Xalam Group which averred that contrary to earlier claims by telecom networks that their rollouts of 4G LTE will change the narratives in socioeconomic activities, revelations form a new market research conducted by Xalam Analytics showed that the 4G network deployment and adoption had not either directly or indirectly changed internet experience of anybody in Nigeria.

The document entitled ‘The failure(s) of African 4G’ described 4G network in Africa as “a commercial success in user terms, but an economic failure,”

Xalam said “The monetisation of African 4G is highly problematic. We found no solid correlation between strong 4G adoption and increased mobile operator profitability. Far from helping turnaround African mobile operators’ cash flow problems, 4G is making them worse over the medium term,” it added.

Though analysts at Xalam Analytics stressed that 4G deployment was necessary for MNOs as its adoption formed the baseline foundation for cloud services, data centre, video streaming, and e-commerce, they see Nigerian experiences since their switch from 3G to 4G as embarrassing.

Another revelation by the report showed that MNOs have started deepening investments in 3G rather than 4G as mobile operators have added 20 per cent more 3G base stations than 4G over the past 18 months.

The report averred that “4G in essence impacts everything. It is a barometer for how fast, and how ready the African market will be in entering the much-ballyhooed fourth industrial revolution. 4G adoption is the baseline foundation for cloud services, data centre, video streaming, and even e-commerce projections. African fintech is arguably the only sub-segment impervious to how fast 4G grows, as it is not as bandwidth-dependent.”

Xalam highlighted the impacts of slow adoption of 4G on the continent as, “SMEs sidestepping cloud services because of unavailable, or too expensive high-speed data services. Data centre markets operating at 10 per cent of their potential. Video streaming services are not picking up as fast as expected, for largely similar reasons. Tighter e-commerce models due to a smaller than expected addressable base.”

4G adoption statistics in Nigeria showed that Airtel began the deployment of 4G networks in February and reported coverage in over 60 cities as Globacom says it has extended its 4G LTE network coverage to all the 36 states, the Federal Capital Territory, including 208 tertiary institutions.

Also, 9mobile claims it has coverage in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Kano while MTN is reportedly in all the 36 states and FCT.

Many telecoms subscribers who had switched to 4G are still struggling to access the expected height of internet speed even as the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has maintained silence on the quality of 4G LTE offered to Nigerians so far.