Former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, has warned that if Nigeria must stay competitive in the global economy, she must leverage on the opportunities provided by 5G technology and deploy it as soon as possible.
Ndukwe spoke on Tuesday at a Fireside Chat titled “5G and its contentions: What is the way forward?” at the ongoing first Virtual Conference of the Digital Africa Conference & Exhibition with the theme Africa’s Post-Pandemic High Tech World.
Recall that on the heels of the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, a flurry of conspiracy theories emerged linking the pandemic with the rollout of 5G technology in some parts of the world.
But Ndukwe, speaking as a guest at the Virtual event said that every technology development has always been entangled with issues of health concerns yet, such technology development has never been stopped by such concerns.
“With every technology development, there is always this fear about the health issue and that has not stopped the deployment of these techs. To the best of my knowledge, no telecom operator in the world today can power any network without being certain about its safety.
“As chairman of MTN Nigeria, I cannot be in support of the deployment of any network that will be harmful to people’s health,” Ndukwe said.
The former NCC helmsman disclosed that Nigeria was yet to roll out 5G technology even though a trial has been carried out in some cities in the country, adding that Nigeria is not yet fully planted on 4G network across the country.
“We must adopt 5G if we want to compete at the global level and not play from the back. And this adoption has to be led by the regulatory authorities and the government providing the enabling environment for the technology to thrive.
“I know that 5G is something that will happen in Nigeria no matter the delay in deployment. The conspiracy theories are no doubt worrisome, and that I believe, is one of the reasons there seems to be a delay in roll out across some regions of the world,” he stated.
Ndukwe, popularly known within the ICT circle as Mr Telecoms said that the cost of the spectrum will go a long way in determining how soon 5G technology will be deployed in Nigeria and indeed the African Continent, recalling that 3G technology came around about two years late because of cost of spectrum.
According to him, “For networks to be deployed there must be the availability of spectrum. No country in Africa has actually rolled out 5G because the cost is expensive. It will take another year or two before Nigeria can roll out.
“Countries that are eager to move forward see 5G as the forward movement. If it’s not safe, nobody will deploy it. For me, late deployment is not as a result of health concerns. Regulators like ITU are working to ensure that what will be deployed is safe because it’s a technology that is going to improve every aspect of our life. I am aware that if Nigeria is not sure of the safety of 5G, she will not deploy it.”
Ndukwe who said Nigeria has to be ready for 5G first before she begins to talk about the cost of deployment, tasked the Federal Government to show more concern about the volume of revenue 5G will bring to the economy.
“We have to be careful about how far we go about talking about not deploying 5G. If we don’t deploy, we miss out from the $3.5 Trillion market and 22 million jobs expected to be generated by 5G in 2035. It will cause us capital flight if we don’t deploy it therefore, we must join the global race with the rest of the World,” he further said.
The MTN Nigeria Chairman noted that without fibre optic deployment, Nigeria can’t enjoy 5G as it would be enjoyed in other countries, adding that fibre optic deployment is critical to the success of 5G technology network in the country.
He said that the report about waving and slashing of Right of Way (RoW) charges in some states of the country is a welcome development but added that there was the need for the government to take the lead in the crashing of the cost of broadband.
“I see South Africa, Nigeria or Ghana to be the first to roll out 5G in Africa; however, it depends on the regulatory environment plan for it. If we don’t do the fibre optic and provide the infrastructure for 5G, we can’t make any headway. The NCC should begin to think about the spectrum to use for 5G so that operators can begin now to work around that,” Ndukwe concluded.