5G will serve as a game changer for internet connection in Nigeria, reckons Sonny Aragba-Akpore 

As Nigerians await the much hyped fifth generation internet services better known as 5G, there are indications that the advent of 5G will alter the way internet services are provided in the country.

With the highest internet speed currently standing at 13.45 megabytes per second (mbps), and broadband connection put at 44.3 % by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), 5G services, though a late start for Nigeria may change the way internet services are offered to subscribers.

Two companies, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and Mafab Communications Limited won the two 5G slots on offer by the regulator in December 2021 after arriving at the bid price of $273.6m each, but there are indications that MTN is perhaps the only one ready now for services in five states and Mafab granted a five-month extension after the time line which was last week Wednesday to begin services.

If all goes well, Nigeria may be removed from the global Internet Poverty Index. For its population of nearly 215m people, only 109 million have access to the internet leaving nearly half of the population in the dark.

Today internet access is viewed as a basic requirement, besides access to food, clothing, housing, and energy. The ability to accurately measure internet poverty can raise awareness and identify the most vulnerable groups. This is especially impactful in the fields of education, employment, entertainment and general connection to the world.


“Internet poverty is measured by how many people can or cannot afford a minimum package of mobile internet. Moreover, it is based on three assumed pillars: affordability, quantity and quality. Affordability, where up to 10% of total individual spending is assumed. Quantity, where 1GB per month is assumed. Quality, where 10Mbps download speed is assumed,” according to World Data Lab reports.

The World Data Lab reports that of the 169 countries on the Global Internet Poverty Index, Nigeria ranks number one with 103,015017 million people without internet while Tonga stands at 169 with less than 10,000 of its population without internet. The USA is 47th on the list with 5.3million of its population without internet.

South Africa is number 10 on the list and has 38million people without internet while Ghana is 42nd with 7.2 million people without internet. China is number three on the list and a little over 93 million people are without internet.

DataReportal says there were 109.2 million internet users in Nigeria in January 2022.

And Nigeria’s internet penetration rate stood at 51.0 percent of the total population at the start of 2022. These user figures reveal that 104.9 million people in Nigeria did not use the internet at the start of 2022, meaning that 49.0 percent of the population remained offline at the beginning of 2022.

MTN and Mafab got the 3.5Ghz spectrum December 2021 to provide 5G services in Nigeria and were expected to roll out services on Wednesday August 24,2022.

       MTN plans to roll out initially in 190 locations including Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Kano, among others.

MTN has created a pre-order template for subscribers in these locations especially for their 5G devices to enable them enjoy the high speed internet download with low latency that are associated with 5G, since not all devices can access 5G network for now.

Mafab Communications Limited has another five months to meet up with the rollout plan due to technical hiccups thereby leaving MTN to begin the race for now.

Mafab Communications said last week that the NCC issued it a five-month extension period for its roll out.

“The 5G licence comes with frequency licence and not op- erational licence. So Mafab only has frequency licence and does not have operational licence and it needs to apply for a telecom operational licence to enable it roll out 5G services and other telecom services,” says NCC spokesman Reuben Muoka.

Apart from the 5G entry into the heavily subscribed telecom sector, Elon Musk’s Starlink got the regulator’s nods recently to provide broadband services. Starlink, a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, will operate in Nigeria.

Elon Musk had tweeted via his Twitter handle saying the company has been providing satellite Internet access coverage to 32 countries.

Starlink provides high-speed, low-latency broadband internet across the globe. Orders are fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis within each coverage area. The company received two licences, the International Gateway licence and the Internet service provider (ISP) licence, and will be trading as Starlink Internet Services Nigeria Ltd. The NCC said the International Gateway licence has a 10-year tenure, while the ISP licence lasts five years. Both licenses take effect from May 2022 and may be renewed after the expiration.

Musk is excited at the prospects of coming to Nigeria Starlink, the Internet Service Provider under his company SpaceX to provide internet access through low earth orbital (LEO) satellites.

This year alone, Starlink is said to have launched more than 2,000 satellites, and 1,500 are in operational orbit as at January. These satellites make it easier for rural areas and places unable to be serviced by regular service providers to have internet access.

In Nigeria, 49% (104.9 million) of the population do not use the internet because of limited internet service infrastructure (like cell phone towers), according to the “Digital 2022 Nigeria” report by Data Reportal.

Nigerians typically access the internet through data bundles offered by companies such as 9mobile, Airtel Nigeria, Spectranet and MTN. However, users of these services frequently complain of slow internet speeds and constant unexplained downtimes. 

Starlink is believed to offer internet speed of 104Mbps, a sharp contrast to the average cellular internet speed of 13.45 mbps in Nigeria. Faster internet coming from 5G, satellite, and other fibre to the home (FTTH) service providers including IPNX, Legend by Suburban, Phase 3, Fibre One and 21st Century Technology limited Will boost internet connectivity in the country. 

For instance, banking systems would have faster connectivity to head-office databases, reduced time spent resolving customer queries, and improved financial services. 

Online classes especially in a strike prone country would become more effective and reach more students, particularly those in underserved areas. 

Healthcare would benefit from telemedicine. Regardless of location, doctors would be able to consult with patients effortlessly.

Unreliable internet in rural areas especially for individuals, particularly remote workers, will have access to faster internet. ipNX is one of Nigeria’s fastest growing Information and Communications Technology companies, serving a multitude of needs across enterprises, small businesses and residents with FTTH services.

As a pioneer and a leading Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) operator in Nigeria, IPNX currently provides a number of solutions to various industries and market segments using industry-leading technology (such as Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) cable technology) as core access network infrastructure and fixed wireless radio services (via licensed frequency).

Despite the race to make broadband connectivity robust in Nigeria the success of South Africa, for instance, with an average mobile speed of 38.07 Mbps, has a link to its massive undersea cables like those of EASSy — a 10,000km submarine fibre-optic cable system draped along the east and south coast of Africa — which supply respectable fibre broadband speeds is instructive.

MainOne Cable, SAT-3, Glo 1, WACCS are part of the race to provide broadband internet connectivity in the country today.

State-owned NIGCOMSAT 1R provides services too to mostly government institutions and some corporate organizations.

But 5G will certainly bridge the gap and serve as a game changer for internet connection in Nigeria as it has done elsewhere in global community.

The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) database, as at end of June 2022 listed more than 300 operators deploying or operating 5G networks, in sub-6 GHz spectrum while 496 operators in 150 countries and territories are investing in 5G mobile or 5G fixed wireless access or home broadband networks.

There are 218 operators in 87 countries and territories that have announced compatible 5G service launches, either mobile or fixed wireless access and another 108 operators in 52 countries investing in 5G standalone for public networks in the form of trials, plans, paying for licences, deploying, or operating networks.

Aragba-Akpore is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board

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