The projection period for the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria may after all not become a reality, as there are indications of shortage of engineers who can handle the intricacies of the new technology.
In September, this year, the Federal Government through the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, announced that the 5G network will be rolled out in January, 2022 and will assist the surveillance against destruction of public infrastructures.
But a reliable source, which preferred anonymity, told us that the January, 2022 timeline for the deployment of 5G will not be realistic due to lack of relevant local engineers who can set up, operate, deploy and maintain the technology.
The source said there are going to be some distortions which will warrant extension of deployment dates.
“I think Nigeria is just laying the foundation of 5G technology. We don’t really have all it takes to effect the deployment of 5G within the short period the government is assuring Nigerians. Yes, I know 4G can to some extent assist in the working of the technology; but the core infrastructures are not really available now.
“You can imagine how long it is going to take the qualified service operators to get the equipment, the time for building and installing in relevant cities in the country. The most critical aspect is the shortage of skilled manpower who can make the technology operational.
“Even if we are to bring them from outside the country, mind you, we are still battling with the effect of COVID-19, even though it is not as serious as before. But the reports about the new variant tagged Omicron, is already calling for concerns, because of the challenges of travelling from one country to another,” the source explained.
While speaking recently, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), acknowledged that a robust broadband infrastructure will play a key role in fast-tracking the effective deployment of 5G technology and facilitate availability of services associated with 5G technology.
He said the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020-2025, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2020, has a target to achieve 70 percent broadband penetration among 90 percent of the country’s population.
The plan also seeks to achieve broadband speed of 15Mbp and 25Mbps in rural and urban areas, respectively, over the next five years.
According to Danbatta, “The commission is also driving various initiatives aimed at facilitating the deployment of 5G Mobile Technology in Nigeria.
Speakingt, Engr. Stephen Bello, a former Acting Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said many people will not be able to have access to 5G for quite some time when it is eventually rolled out, because, as a new technology, it requires well-trained engineers to make it work.
According to him, “There is now doubt to the fact that 5G deployment in the country will take time. It is not just about the technology, it is also about those who will make the technology work. I don’t think we have enough of the engineers who can handle this. Maybe they will bring some from outside the country or send some of our engineers to countries like China and Japan, where 5G is already being used.
“The fact is that 5G will be mostly for the rich people in highbrow areas in major cities in Nigeria. These are the people who will be able to afford 5G when it starts, because it will require huge investments, innovative technology and relevant engineers. But I can tell you that 80 percent of Nigerians do not require the extra services provided by 5G as of today. So, we don’t need to bother about that for now. The people who need it will key into it once it is launched.”
According to Ericsson global insights latest forecasts, 5G is on track to become the dominant mobile access technology, based on subscriptions globally, by 2027. 5G is also expected to hit 4.4 billion in subscriptions which account for around 50 percent of all mobile subscriptions worldwide – covering 75 percent of the world’s population and carrying 62 percent of the global smartphone traffic by 2027.
As at Q3 2021, there was a net addition of 98 million 5G subscriptions globally, whereas Nigeria is just at the preliminary stage(s) for the technology’s deployment.
The report also reveals that, at the end of 2021, it is estimated that 5G networks will cover more than two billion people. It said that the nature of mobile connections is changing rapidly, contributing to the ongoing rise in mobile data traffic.
Broadband IoT has now surpassed 2G/3G as the segment that connects the largest share of IoT applications. It is expected to account for 47 percent of all cellular IoT connections by the end of 2021, compared to 37 percent for 2G/3G and 16 percent for Massive IoT technologies (NB-IoT and Cat-M).
New forecasts reaffirm the rapid acceleration of massive IoT deployments in coming years, spanning use cases such as e-health wearables, logistical asset tracking, environmental monitoring and smart meters, and smart manufacturing tracking and monitoring devices. Massive IoT deployments are forecast to account for 51 percent of all cellular IoT connections by 2027.