25m Nigerians maybe denied network access as 5G deploys 2022


The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had last week approved the Fifth Generation Network, otherwise known as 5G for the nation.

25m Nigerians maybe denied network access as 5G deploys 2022
File photo: 5G

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, disclosed the approval at the end of the weekly FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He also revealed that the Council in approving the 5G took cognisance of the report of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) that pronounced it safe to human health.

Similarly, in support of the move by the federal government, telecommunication operators (Telcos), under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), also said Nigeria was ready in terms of infrastructure for 5G rollout across the country.

However, as the dateline for the deployment of 5G networks in Nigeria narrows down to early next year, there are indications that about 25 million Nigerians in 114 telecommunications clusters would remain outside coverage areas as telecom authorities get set for roll out.

It is also likely that about 13 million Nigerians in another 103 clusters that were recently connected into the GSM network for the first time under the 1G-4G technology would also come behind under the 5G regime.

VANGUARD learnt that though industry experts are of the view that these 25 million Nigerians in the remaining 114 access gap clusters should better be covered under the 5G regime, the deployment strategy that had sidelined them in the past 20 years of mobile telecommunications development in Nigeria may continue to play out in the 5G regime.

The telecom operators have stayed with commercial viability in their deployment strategy in the past 20 years, and the operating environment has not changed significantly to enable them deploy across all territories irrespective of commercial viability.

Some industry practitioners who spoke with the newspaper expressed the desire that operators take advantage of the support fund made available by the Universal Services Provision Fund, USPF,  an arm of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to achieve a national 5G coverage faster.

This, they believe, would also resolve the  recent controversy over the telecommunication coverage of the country in respect of electronic transfer of election results.

Recall that recently, officials of the NCC led by the Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu; Executive Commissioner Technical Services, Ubale Maska, and two others appeared before the lawmakers to give insights on the strength of telecom network coverage to support electronic transmission of election results in 2023.

But the NCC team told the lawmakers that only 50 percent of the country has the 3G coverage required for transmission and would not guarantee safety if other generations of network was used in the process.

However, Executive Director Paradigm Initiatives of Nigeria, PIN Gbenga Sesan, said the NCC confession was an admission of failure considering that “the Universal Services Provision Fund (USPF) was set up for exactly the purpose of taking services to all nooks and cranny of the country. So the NCC is basically admitting its own failure, and probably suggesting that the USPF has been an ineffective and inefficient fund. If they do work with operators as originally planned, that 50 per cent can quickly become 70 per cent in less than 2 years, and grow sustainably after that” he added

Meanwhile, Danbatta, at a meeting late last year said: “When I came on board, 217 access gap clusters were identified in the country affecting 40 million Nigerians without access to telecoms services.

“But today, we have reduced the access gap clusters to 114 with 15 million of the 40 million digitally excluded Nigerians now having access to telecoms services. We are committed to addressing the remaining access gap clusters, which are areas outside the frontier of economic viability to ensure the remaining 25 million Nigerians have access” 

As part of the effort to tackle this, the Commission has said it was now ready to launch the 5G having completed a successful test run across locations in the country.

It, however, noted that the only challenge was for the National Frequency Management Council, NFMC, and the Federal Government to release more spectrums and declare the auction open.

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