The fifth generation of technology popularly shortened as 5G, unexpectedly debuted with controversies unlike it's preceding 4th generation.
During the earlier part of the year, there were speculations that the 5G technology did bring about covid-19, the novel virus which has affected millions and killed hundreds of thousands. Conspiracy theories flew in and advanced by influential individuals, this had mainstream effects culminating in varied disapproval of the network. How true these theories were including the details of the favourite generation of technology as it pertains to Nigeria is closely examined below.
Generations of technology are benchmark agreed upon and defined by the International Telecommunication Union. The major consideration before a new generation is borne is the speed range it bears, how distinct it is from the one before it. Along with several other requirements, the International Telecommunication Union in it's IMT-2020 standard
requires a theoretical peak download speed of 20 gigabits per second and upload speed of 10 gigabits per second for a connection to be considered a 5G network. With this speed, devices and connected systems would operate in real-time thereby saving time and costs, in addition to introducing more imaginable broadband applications.
Aside these enviable advantages, there are drawbacks to the successful launch of the service in Nigeria. The reasons for such owing to the over-staying peculiarities of the country's conditions and these would be detailed as you read along.
3G and 4G serving up for 5G
In Nigeria, the 3G technology is more predominant that the 2G and 4G. This is due to the gab which telecom operators have tried to bridge between smartphone users and feature phone owners. Floating a 3G network, as viewed by these operators, is more effective and profitable than the rest given that majority of smartphones (if not all) are 3G-compatible. Additionally, the ownership of smartphones across Nigeria have significantly been on the increase, a credible reason the turn towards 3G and 4G became rational.
Transsion holdings, the parent company of popular brands like Tecno and Infinix holds majority of the country's smartphone market. Additionally, a January report by the ITU claims that about 79% of users connected to the internet in the sub-saharan Africa uses 3G, leaving about 20% subscribers to 2G and 4G. Notwitstanding, telecom operators in the country have now redirected thier resources towards building 4G infrastructures and have recently showed interest towards putting together the 5G network.
The 4G broadband technology could peak at 100 megabytes per second when the connected device is stationary, and much lesser when on a fast-moving medium. This technology as claimed by telecom operators in the country is accessible in several locations, however, the effectiveness of such offered network is questionable.
Applications of the 5G
The 5th generation of cellular technology serves a wide number of applications. An augmented bandwidth on the network a step better than those of 4G means more devices would be able to get connected at a particular time.
The 5G technology would be of added advantage in traffic management, especially in crowded cities. And the installation of smart devices to traffic equipment and vehicles would enable them to interact with each other in time faster than human's reflexes. This consequently helps reduce cases of accidents due to human misjudgements.
Aside the dawn of intelligent vehicles, self-driving rides would efficiently be made to run the roads. In some European cities which have turned 'smart', intelligent sensors have already been fixed in intersections, and this gives signal to supported vehicles about the status of these routes. With 5G connectivity, these would get smarter
What's more? Factories which erstwhile had been operated by automated machines wouldn't be left without effect of the technology. The machines and robots which had earlier been connected through cables (as WiFi connectivity hasn't the needed range) to perform specific tasks would be more flexible and efficient as they would be made without auxiliary wiring (they would obtain signals wirelessly). These machines could sense and engage with it's environment in it's flexible state without being helped onto it.
Another application of the 5G is in the military. Drones and other espionage devices would be put to a smarter task. Generally, the 5G is there to introduce in a broader sense, the internet of things.
Timeline of 5G in Nigeria
» 5G debuted globally in 2016.
» In July 2018, MTN Nigeria made known it's intent in the commercial deployment of the technology in Nigeria before 2020.
» In April 2019, the indigenous operator, Globacom announced plans for a possible conceptual launch of 5G on it's network by the end of the year. This is yet to happen.
» November 2019: MTN became the first operator to trial the 5G technology in the country. During the test which took place in three cities of Lagos, Calabar, and Abuja, connection speeds peaked at 2GB per seconds.
» Airtel indicated commitment in debuting the technology soon.
A new broadband plan targetted at increased speed gets introduced by the government
A broadband plan revealed on April 27, 2020 and meant for the year 2020 through to 2025 seeks to promote an efficient cellular connection leading to an increase in the country's broadband penetration. The plan hopes a nation-wide minimum data download speeds of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas could be attained to strengthen it's aim of actualising a digital economy. To achieve this, the national telecom regulator, NCC, says a synergy with service providers has been made to improve their network infrastructures.
Effective coverage for “at least” 90% of the population by 2025 is expected, and that is at a price not more than 2% of median income or 1% of the minimum wage, per 1GB of data.
The country's first outlined broadband plan made in 2013 had purposed to place the minimum download speeds at 1.5Mbps with at least 30% coverage. Furthermore, it was designed to ensure that at least 80% of the population had access to 3G coverage.
The conspiracy theories
The 5G network has been made to face many cursory examinations, and these have resulted to diverse personal theories being borne. It was due to widespread agitations against the health disbenefits of 5G that necessitated 180 scientists from 36 countries to write to the European Union demanding a halt in the rollout of the technology. The request made in 2019 hinged it's reason on the possible health risks of the 5G technology.
Earlier this year, popular Nigerian TV pastor Chris Oyakhilome followed like-minded commentators to lay claims on the technology and the developing health conditions occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic. To this, his broadcast channel, LoveWorld Limited, one belonging to the Christ Embassy Church (founded by him) was sanctioned by the UK’s Office of Communication (Ofcom). The sanction which was lifted in June 2020 was imposed on the channel for promoting the view that coronavirus is a global cover-up and an "unfounded claim" that hydroxychloroquine could cure the dreaded coronavirus.
Debunking widespread claims of the adversity of 5G radiations, the International Commission for Non- ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) forwarded a statement holding that as long as the right precautions are taken, 5G is safe for human health.
Drawbacks in addition to perculiar underprivileges makes 5G literally yet far to be achievable in the country
5G comes in three frequency band types of high, medium and low. The low-band network offers wide coverage area but peaks at speed about 20% faster than 4G, the mid-band network offers a much-improved speed but a lesser coverage. Meanwhile, the high-band network offers superfast speeds have difficulty with coverage; they seldomly pass through hard surfaces.
Setting up a 5G network needs the replacement of the erstwhile radio cells with one of 5G. And for a faster connection (high frequency 5G), small cell towers need to be made not too far away from each other. Implementation of this demands a considerable amount of funds and consistent development, features which could hard to go by in the dwindling Nigerian economy. The costs of setting this up to become grander when noted that the service providers would need to power all the stations in addition to the expenses arising from rights of way and vandalism.
Conclusively, 5G is yet to be commercially floated in Nigeria, however on Thursday, July 11 2020, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it is working on a policy for the deployment of 5G at an earliest possible time in the country. While some say the call for a 5G debut is needless given that operators are yet struggling with going mainstream with the 4G, others are of the opinion that the dream of a digital economy could only be realised when pace is kept with developed nations. As at today, only the two African countries of South Africa and Lesotho have commercially debutted the fifth generation of technology in the continent.