Nigeria draws nearer 5G launch as Pantami reveals plans to submit draft national policy on 5G network at FEC

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Nigeria is gearing up for commercial launch of 5G network as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, announced that his ministry is inking final plans to present a draft national policy on the 5th Generation (5G) network at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for consideration.

The FEC, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, is the country’s highest decision making organ.

Pantami while speaking this week in Abuja at a one-day investigative public hearing on the present status of 5G network in Nigeria and its technological impact on Nigerians, revealed that the the draft policy weill be presented at the FEC once the ongoing research on the 5G network is concluded by his ministry.

“The Nigerian telecommunication sector is part and parcel of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) where issues of telecommunication technology and its impacts are discussed. We are in the process of compiling our final position [that] will be part of the draft national policy which will be presented at the Federal Executive Council. (FEC),” said the minister

He added: “We have not gotten there, whether we will deploy 5G, but we are on track conducting research, investigations, engaging stakeholders and definitely if all issues are addressed, the executive will support the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.”

The one day hearing was organised by Senate Joint Committees on Communications, Science and Technology, ICT, Cybercrimes, Primary Health and Communicable Diseases. Part of the hearing is to address the controversies over possible health hazards of 5G and help to set the roadmap for Nigeria’s eventual launch of commercial 5G services.

While some parts of the globe including Nigeria still dithers over 5G, report by Bankr indicates shows that the 5G technology global coverage will grow by  253.84% in the next five years. By 2025, about 53% of the global population at 4.14 billion will have access to 5G.

Even though, it has the largest telecom market in Africa with over 180 million mobile phone subscriptions, Nigeria is lagging behind South Africa as both MTN South Africa and Vodacom have launched  5G commercial network in mid 2020 to begin Africa’s run for the fifth generation of global system (GSM).

Nigeria has its first 5G trial in late 2019. But owing to a mix of factors including the need to address “security and health concerns,” commercial launch has been stalled.

However, Pantami at the public hearing dismissed any link between COVID-19 and 5G even as he assured that further heath-centred trials had been approved by the federal government in selected cities including Abuja, Lagos, Calabar, Ibadan, Kano Port Harcourt and Abeokuta.

His words: “On 25 of September 2019, we conducted the first trial of 5G in Nigeria. I did the trial personally so if there is any implications in terms of radiation or relationship with COVID-19, I would have been  the first victim because I did it. To date, I have never contracted the virus. The position is that we are almost at the final stage. So now, Nigeria is ready for 5G as long as we address the major challenges.”

Pantami, who led other stakeholders heading agencies under his ministry, reaffirmed that both the ITU and World Health Organization (WHO), have long concluded that 5G is not harmful in any way to human health.  

In Pantami’s team was Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta, who expressed similar viewpoint to that of the minister. Others at the event were Managing Director and CEO of NIGCOMSAT,  Dr Abimbola Alale, Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi and representatives of telecom companies.

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