Last week the Federal Executive Council approved the National Policy on the deployment of the 5G network in Nigeria. What do you need to know about the 5G network and this policy?

MTN Nigeria with support from mobile operators like Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson ran spectrum tests for the 5G network in Abuja, Calabar and Lagos in 2019, this made Nigeria the first West Africa nation to initiate the 5G trial.

In the Consultation Document on Plan for 5G deployment in Nigeria, the National Communication Commission states that, 'the evolving nature of the 5G technology creates the need for a clear national Plan on how to deploy 5G technology towards achieving the best benefit for the nation and driving the 4th Industrial revolution in Nigeria.'

What is 5G?

5G is a technology that opens new opportunities for seamless connectivity and higher data speeds. It is the current generation of mobile communications designed to exceed technologies from previous generations by providing an opportunity for users to explore different airwave technologies.

Reports claimed that while it takes 22 minutes to download a high-definition movie on a 4G network, it will only take 32 seconds on a 5G network. Based on its elasticity, 5G networks are also projected to be able to service a million devices within a square kilometre —100 times more than 4G networks can handle in the same area.

What does National Policy mean?

With this approval, Nigeria has joined Kenya and South Africa to become one of the countries pioneering 5G deployment in Africa.

The official authorization of the Federal Government for the 'immediate deployment' of the fifth-generation (5G) network across the country follows the national policy that has been developed over a period of 2 years.

During this period, the implementing body was involved in extensive stakeholder engagement and also sensitization of the general public following the outburst of conspiracy theories around the network.

The two-year engagements were necessary because of the myriad of regulatory challenges that need to be addressed before the 5G rollout, such as spectrum allocation and assignment, infrastructure challenges, right-of-way issues, network security, privacy, health and safety amongst others.

The National Frequency Management Council, which is the statutory council in which will be responsible for releasing the spectrum of 5G to the Nigerian Communications Commission in bulk when the conditions of deployment are met, so that the Nigerian Communications Commission on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria, will release the spectrum to the mobile network operators for the deployment of 5G.

Does 5G pose a health risk?

According to the World Health Organization 'to date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.'

'Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.'

The statement made available on WHO's official website further states that, 'tissue heating is the main mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency fields and the human body. Radiofrequency exposure levels from current technologies result in negligible temperature rise in the human body.'

'As the frequency increases, there is less penetration into the body tissues and absorption of the energy becomes more confined to the surface of the body (skin and eye). Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.' -WHO

However, WHO is currently conducting a health risk assessment with regards to exposure to radio frequencies, covering the entire radiofrequency range, including 5G, which will be published in 2022.

Expert reacts.

Reacting to the Federal Government approval, a digital communication professional, Yusuf Ahmed described it to benjamindada.com as a 'welcome development that would be a game changer' to the digital ecosystem of the country. However, Yusuf expressed his concern about the implementation of the project.

'My only reservation is the team that would implement the project, I do hope that it will be a competent one', he said

Final Thoughts.

This development enables Nigeria's digital economy to efficiently adopt the internet of things, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

At the moment, less than 1% of mobile phone connections in Sub Saharan Africa are on 5G, and this number is not expected to grow this year but is likely to reach 7% in 2026, per a report by Ericsson, a Swedish networking and telecommunications company that partnered with MTN Nigeria for the 5G trial.

Let us stay put and watch out for how effective this deployment would be implemented. We will bring you updates as it unfolds.