The Federal Government of Nigeria has started the process to declare Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructures as critical national assets by preparing an Executive Order to stop the lingering issues of multiple taxation and base station site closures amongst other issues which are slowly crippling the sector.
Speaking during the demo launch of MTN Nigeria’s 5G technology in Abuja on Monday, Isa Ali Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, said that a draft letter has been prepared, signed by him and sent to the Attorney General of the Federation to review.
“The federal government of Nigeria, under the administration of president Muhammadu Buhari is passionate about ICT. Considering the increasing contribution of ICT to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it is only normal that every country values its most important and critical sectors. Today, ICT is one of the most critical sectors we have in Nigeria and the government recognises the situation and challenges that the player are facing. So the president has directed us to take action, and we are making progress in alleviating and removing the challenges,” Pantami said.
Stating the steps being taken by the ministry to ensure an enabling environment for players, increased investment in the sector and a level-playing field for all operators, the minister said: “We are working on an Executive Order to declare telecoms infrastructure as critical national infrastructure.
“I have sent a signed letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation to review the draft and this is what I call a short- term solution. For the long term, the President has also directed us to facilitate the process of having legislation in place and this is also in the pipeline. We are working to ensure that the environment is very conducive for telcos to do business,” he said.
With heavy local and foreign investments in developing technologies and the ICT sector, industry watchers say it was high time that ICT infrastructure got recognised as critical national infrastructure.
Nigeria on Monday became the first West African country to demonstrate 5G technology as a result of collaboration involving the Ministry of Communications Technology and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), MTN and Huawei (Abuja), ZTE (Calabar) and Ericsson (Lagos.) This immersive demo and experience will travel across three Nigerian cities to showcase the capabilities of 5G and its potential to enable economic growth, and social inclusion.
MTN and its partner – Huawei, were able to provide a glimpse into a range of 5G use cases and applications at a test Lab designed to show proof-of-concept in Abuja.
For the business community, 5G which supports fast data transfer rates of up to 20Gbit per second, will spur and support innovative ambitions and create new markets, transforming supply chain management and creating smarter, more efficient manufacturing. It is also a fundamental platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) – the rapidly expanding number of devices that collect, transmit and share data via the internet.
Reports show that by 2020, more than half of all new businesses will rely on IoT to cut costs, build efficiencies and grow their bottom lines. For the IoT to realise its limitless potential, 5G is critical.
Speaking to journalists after the demo session at MTN’s headquarters in Abuja, Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC said that “the opportunities 5G creates are many. With this demo, we have seen areas where 5G can be used to provide services that require very high-speed, large volumes of transactions for the banking sector, and services that would transform our society into what we call an instant society where things are seen as they are happening. And all these opportunities have been demonstrated in practical terms and I want to congratulate Nigerians for witnessing this transformational qualities of 5G technology, which we hope in the not-too- distant future, will in turn transform the lives of our citizens.”
According to Ernest Ndukwe, chairman, MTN Nigeria, “we are privileged to see the telecoms industry move from analogue mobile to 5G today.”
“In 2001, Nigeria was lagging behind countries like Tunisia, Ghana, Cameroon, who already had 2G GSM services installed in their countries. But today, Nigeria is leading the pack in demonstrating 5G technology,” he told BusinessDay.
Ndukwe said: “Once the enabling environment is provided, telcos will go ahead to make sure that Nigeria remains at the forefront of technology development.”
Following the successful demonstration in Abuja, MTN says the 5G-demo train will move to Calabar and Lagos, in addition to which 5G trials will be run in four other cities across the country.
According to the company, the 5G trial will run for three months utilising the 800MHz trial spectrum allocated to MTN by the NCC.