30 Nigerian localities have 5G as the NCC assigns operators to expansion

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the Fifth Generation (5G) network has only reached about 30 cities in Nigeria.

Going into its third year of commercial launch in Nigeria, NCC assures of further expansion with clarion calls on the licensees to roll out in more cities.

In the last NCC updated subscription statistics as of August 2023, the Commission puts 5G subscriptions in the country at 0.83 percent penetration, with some 500,000 people enjoying the service.

The current 5G-network status was revealed in Lagos when the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Aminu Maida, unveiled his agenda for the sector for the next five years.

While assuring that during his tenure, issues limiting the expansion of telecom services would receive utmost attention, Maida posited that the need for improved telephony services couldn’t be overemphasised.

On the question of how ready Nigeria is for the sixth-generation (6G) network, Maida said: “On every level of technology, Nigeria won’t be left behind. We are yet to maximise the benefits of 5G. We are still at the earliest stage of that. But we can’t be left behind by other countries; as the world progresses, we also progress. We still need to leverage 5G before we can talk about adopting 6G.”

Providing more insights, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Standard, Ubale Maska, said: “Nigeria is still grappling with 5G. I can say that the network is still in less than 30 cities in the country. So, we still have a long way to go. But we have strategies to deploy the service in Nigeria. 4G LTE has not even covered the entire country.

“So, before we talk of 5G and 6G, let’s maximise 4G to the fullest. When the spectrum for 6G becomes available globally, we shall deploy as fast as possible.”

Checks by The Guardian showed that 2G still dominates network usage in the country, with 60.47 percent penetration. 3G penetration was at 9.57 percent, and 4G had 29.13 percent of population penetration as of August 2023.

Also, since launching in Nigeria, going into the third year now, the licensees, MTN, Mafab, and Airtel, have pushed for more 5G penetrations in the country. While Airtel claims to be in Lagos, Ogun, Port Harcourt, and Abuja, MTN is in over 15 cities across the country. Mafab claims to be in Lagos and Abuja and is currently planning expansion.

Meanwhile, more investments in 5G networks are expected to bring operators a 32 percent revenue jump, which could fetch them $400 billion by the end of 2024.

A study by Juniper Research, which disclosed this, noted that as consumer 5G penetration rates become saturated, it will be ‘imperative’ for operators to launch 5G services geared towards enterprise IoT users, specifically 5G Advanced and 5G RedCap (Reduced Capacity).

The report described 5G Advanced as ‘a development of the next evolutionary stage of 5G’ and said it will unlock new opportunities for operators and strengthen 5G support for XR, VR, and AR applications, while AI and machine learning will be key to improving network performance. Already, the United Nations arm in charge of global communications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has disclosed that the 5G network has reached 40 percent of the eight billion global populations since its launch in 2019.