By Adedapo Adesanya
Despite recent headwinds faced by the deployment of fifth Internet generation (5G) technology, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has made it known that it is going ahead with the plans.
This, the commission made known, as it revealed the process leading to developing a policy framework for rolling out 5G technologies in the country.
In April, the NCC was faced with backlash from some Nigerians, who claimed that 5G was hazardous to human health, going on to link it with the spread of the coronavirus. However, the agency was able to quell the rumours, assuring citizens that their welfare would always be prioritised.
Now, the commission has called for stakeholders’ participation in putting the policy framework in place.
In a document signed by Mr Henry Nkemadu, NCC Director of Public Affairs, the industry regulator said it was doing this in line with the provisions of Section 4(q) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (the NCA).
The section empowers the NCC to prepare and implement programmes and plans that promote and ensure the development of the communications industry and the provision of communications services in Nigeria.
“Further to this mandate, the Commission considered that the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) Technology will be beneficial for the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
“The technology is an advancement of existing mobile technologies (2G – 4G) with enhanced capabilities providing new and enhanced mobile communications services.
“Such enhancements include applications like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Drones, Advanced Communication Systems, Cloud, 3D Printing, Mixed Reality, Simulation/Imaging, Gamification,” the document read.
The NCC said these would bring improvements in manufacturing, transportation, public services, health and social works, agriculture, energy, logistics, media and entertainment.
Other industries to benefit tremendously from 5G rollout include mining and quarrying, machinery and equipment, automotive, education, information and communication, urban infrastructure, consumer experience, sports, semiconductor technologies, among others.
The commission said the deployment of the technologies will promote the National Digital Economy for a Digital Nigeria that will improve the way Nigerians live and work.
5G has been deployed commercially and in use in some countries. As with the previous technologies, the International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has classified radiation from 5G as non-ionizing and therefore, safe for human beings.
Following global trends in telecommunications development of 5G, the NCC in November 2019, embarked on a Proof of Concept (trial) with MTN in six locations using different equipment vendors for a period of three months.
At the time, relevant stakeholders including members of the security agencies were involved in the trial.
The trial was conducted to enable the commission assess the performance of the technology in comparison with existing technologies, evaluate compliance to health and safety guidelines and also use the lessons learnt to guide policy towards commercial deployment.
The trial, which was conducted on the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands, was successfully completed with performance showing improvement of 5G over the previous technologies with the radiation levels well below the specified human safety guidelines.
However, the equipment used in the trials have long been decommissioned in all the locations, NCC said.
In view of the successful completion of the trial and a directive from the minister of communication and digital economy, the commission commenced the development of a policy for the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.
“In line with its powers under section 57 of the NCA, and the need for wide public consultation, the process of developing this policy will involve a Public Inquiry which will involve all relevant stakeholders in the review and consultation process.
“The following Stakeholders have been identified: Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, Office of the National Security Adviser, the National Assembly, Ministry of Health, National Environmental Standards & Regulations Enforcement Agency, and Consumer advocacy groups,” it said.
The commission also called on the academia, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) World Health Organisation (WHO), Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (CREN), Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE), Nigerian Institute of ICT Engineers, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), amongst others.
The NCC further said that the consultative document is currently being developed and will be shared with these stakeholders and the general public, following which a Stakeholder Consultative Forum will be held.
The commission added the views of all stakeholders will be considered in the final policy.
“Accordingly, the details of the proposed public consultation will be widely published in due course. 5G will not be deployed in Nigeria until the policy is concluded and approved,” NCC said.
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