Nigeria Behind on 5G Infrastructure

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CEM REPORT | Stakeholder in the telecom broadband industry have expressed worry over the country’s Fibre Optics Cable infrastructure in achieving a Digital Economy.

Segun Okuneye, Divisional Chief Executive Officer at ipNX Nigeria, while addressing telecoms stakeholders at a forum dedicated to the National Policy on the 5G Network for Nigeria’s Digital Economy, decried low levels of Fiber Optic Infrastructure, noting that nationally, fibre optic cable infrastructure deployment is insufficient and mostly unavailable in a many cities and urban areas.

Okuneye urged the government to look into multiple taxation and duties as a means to support the importation of passive and active infrastructure.

At the event which ipNX co-sponsored, he noted that the critical link between undersea cables that convey huge connectivity capacity into the country and the end-users is the fibre sub-sector,  need more infrastructure than it currently has to achieve broadband penetration and fulfil its target of fifth-generation (5G) network and ubiquitous broadband.

“Nigeria needs three times more fibre infrastructure than it currently has to attain about 90 per cent broadband penetration among others by 2025”.

“the nation needs between 120,000 to 167,000kms of fibre infrastructure, in addition to the existing 55,000 km”.

According to him, it is required for accessing traffic aggregation which involves capacity and scalability; as well as transportation in high-speed, low latency, high quality that guarantees reliability adding backhauling is a major dependent requirement to express the inherent value of the 5G network.

“Increased speeds with lower attenuation, immunity to electromagnetic interference, small size, and virtually unlimited bandwidth potential are among the many reasons why fiber is the right choice when compared to other backhauling technologies.”

Okuneye, further stressed the importance of laying fiber now to potential small and macrocells, wherever and whenever possible and at existing cell sites.

“This is a critical preparatory step if these cell sites are to be upgraded to 5G in the coming years,”

Furthermore, he identified challenges towards the successful Roll-Out of 5G, from fibre perspective.

According to him, these include vandalism and damage to existing fiber infrastructure from road construction.

He further listed Right of Way (RoW), as a long-standing challenge to telecoms infrastructure roll-out over the years. He stated that high RoW fees continue to hinder the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure in Nigeria.

“The proposed Unified RoW is yet to be accepted by several states and their agencies, and as they continue to administer RoW differently with financial demands, this poses major challenges to operators’ rollout plans.

“This is in addition to the divergent policies and inability to obtain RoW permits from the various states,” he lamented. Okuneye also identified access to forex as another cog in the wheel of fibre roll-out for 5G and ubiquitous broadband. He noted that the telecoms industry in Nigeria relies heavily on foreign equipment manufacturers and imported technical expertise for the deployment and maintenance of networks.

“The cost and process of accessing forex remain a major challenge to the fibre sub-sector operators, and this could further create a setback for 5G deployment.

“In addition, operators are still experiencing security challenges, sometimes leading to the temporary shutdown of telecom services – caused by Infrastructure vandalism, thefts, and community issues. Hence, security will continue to be a challenge if not effectively tackled,” he said.

A resident of Lagos told CEM reporter that 5G shouldn’t be the worry now as 4G hasn’t been fully utilized.

“We cannot be looking into 5G when we haven’t scratched 4G. Many Nigerians don’t have 4G devices beside the 3G isn’t 100% yet. We still have issues of no or bad network. Services delivery should first be improved, the country isn’t ready for 5G”

Another resident said, “I don’t have a 4G I have a 4G SIM but not a 4G network. I have never been in an area with 4G access. So why 5G when I haven’t used 4G”.

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