Nigerians will today, wake up to a new, revolutionary telecommunications service, known as the fifth generation, 5G network services.
The network is said to have the capability to offer Nigerians higher data speed, improved reliability and availability which gives them opportunity to connect smart devices such as home security systems among others in their homes.
However, that is for the few that will have the opportunity to connect to the services. The optics are not favorable for over 28 million Nigerians, which the Nigerian Communications Commission admitted, yesterday, were living outside strong network coverage; and a whole lot of others who may not afford the right smartphones required to access 5G services.
A report by Strategy Analytics predicted operators will have to reinstate device subsidy offers in order to bring pricey 5G handsets within reach of consumers, or else face slower uptake of the next-generation technology.
The analyst said 5G smartphones are about the most complex and expensive devices ever, with wholesale costs of more than $750 and retail price tags of $1,000 or more.
Those costs will be slower to come down than 3G and 4G device prices, it added.
The data company’s Director of emerging device technologies, Ken Hyers said “It requires magical thinking to expect that consumers are going to rush to buy 5G smartphones that are bigger, and more expensive than any phone that they’ve ever bought before. Slower uptake is a real threat unless someone closes the gap to 4G performance.”
However, operators can use subsidies as a tool to reduce the cost and make 5G phones more accessible to the mass market.
In Nigeria’s case, some of these considerations have been canvassed, but it doesn’t seem a concrete agreement has been reached anywhere for implementation.
Although industry experts are of the view that these 28 million Nigerians in the remaining 114 access gap clusters should better be covered under the 5G regime, the deployment strategy that had sidelined them in the past 20 years of mobile telecommunications development in Nigeria may continue to play out in the 5G regime.
The telecom operators have stayed with commercial viability in their deployment strategy in the past 20 years, and the operating environment has not changed significantly to enable them deploy across all territories irrespective of commercial viability.
First, among the two winners of the 5G spectrum licenses only MTN will roll out services today. Even at that, sources at the telco’s office admitted the roll out will just be a test case as full commercial services will take effect between the end of this year and early next year.
The telco also admitted that part of the required facilities are on the way; meaning the services will roll out on existing facilities which may have not been deployed specifically for 5G services.
The other winner, MAFAB Communications has granted five months extension by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) meaning that it is expected to roll out services next year.