Telecoms industry stakeholders believe that the last week’s roll-out of Airtel’s 5G network in four states, which came nine months after MTN launched its version in six states, will guarantee an incredibly high speed of connectivity needed for the day-to-day technologically driven society.
With the issuance of 5G licence to successful bidders of the 3.5GHz spectrum by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the 5G licensed telecoms operators have continued to roll out their 5G networks across the country, with lots of promises to the consumers about the benefits of 5G, also known as the fifth generation network.
Airtel, last week, joined other telecoms operators to roll out its 5G network in four states, with a promise to cover the entire states in Nigeria by the end of the year.
MTN had in September last year rolled out its 5G network in six states, with a promise to also cover the entire country with its 5G network, based on its network expansion plan.
Another telecoms operator that has also launched its 5G network in Nigeria, is Mafab Communication Limited, even though it has no distinct rollout plan, because it has no telecoms network of its own, but intends to ride on the telecoms network of an existing operator to roll out its 5G services to Nigerians.
Nigerian telecoms subscribers are full of excitement and renewed hopes about the new online experiences they will get from 5G network that is characterised with high speed data connectivity for video downloads and uploads, clear voice and image qualities, and low latency in terms of the time it will take the 5G network to complete a given task. Telecoms subscribers are optimistic that the development will impact positively on their social media engagement, especially with technology solution developers, technology influencers, and content creators for mobile devices, who strongly believe that 5G will be the game changer for them.
Airtel 5G Rollout
Airtel Nigeria last week rolled out its 5G network in four states in Nigeria, with plans to cover the entire country by the end of the year. The four states include Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Abuja.
According to Airtel, the 5G Launch is a non-standalone version that is better in service delivery.
Speaking at the launch, the Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Carl Cruz, said: “The 5G revolution opens a new vista of opportunities and it is a quantum leap from the existing 4G network.
“With 4G, video playback and video calls are smooth but in 5G, end-to-end video creation with the support of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is possible. 5G is a completely new experience that supercharges cloud computing, telemedicine, self-driving cars, cloud gaming, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Internet of Things (IoT). With 5G, we can only be limited by the limits of our imagination.”
He said with 5G, there would be more collaboration among stakeholders in the telecoms space to do new things with Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Smart Cities, among others.
Cruz appreciated the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for enabling telecoms operators in Nigeria to join other countries that have rolled out the 5G service, through the issuance of 5G spectrum licence.
“Airtel Nigeria is proud to be an early mover with 5G technology, not just in Africa but all over the world, thanks to the commitment of the Nigerian government. 5G became a reality early in Nigeria when only about 60 countries had access worldwide. In addition to that, the frequency spectrum band allocated to 5G will make the experience wore worthwhile for consumers. Our goal as Airtel Nigeria, therefore, is to make 5G accessible and widespread in the country,” Cruz further said.
Chef Commercial Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Femi Oshinlaja, said to ensure more Nigerians have access to the 5G technology, Airtel would be offering its 5G router for N30,000 and has partnered Samsung to deliver the Galaxy A14 model at a very affordable price.
He said though the 5G was positioned to consume more data because it enables more speed and latency, he however said the rate and prices of data would remain the same.
MTN 5G Plan
MTN Nigeria in September last year, launched its commercial 5G network in Lagos, with a promise to carry out 5G commercial launch in six other cities, which include: Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri, and Maiduguri.
MTN became the first telecoms operator to launch a commercial 5G network in Nigeria. The Lagos 5G commercial launch came on the heels of its 5G pilot launch three weeks before the commercial launch.
During the pilot launch, MTN had promised to carry out a 5G commercial launch in six cities, beginning from Lagos.
Speaking during the commercial launch in Lagos, its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Karl Toriola, said the Lagos 5G commercial launch was in fulfillment of MTN’s earlier promise to begin the 5G commercial launch in cities, within one month of the 5G rollout.
The advanced 5G technology promises to extend the reach and capacity of MTN Nigeria’s data network in Nigeria and enable much faster speeds and lower latency, giving customers near-instant access to the things they care about and downloads that take seconds, instead of minutes.
According to MTN, to access the 5G network and enjoy its benefits, customers will need compatible devices, such as routers and mobile phones, which can be pre-ordered from designated MTN walk-in stores and online via the MTN Nigeria website and e-marketplace. The pre-ordered devices can be picked up or will be delivered to customers at designated locations.
MTN showed its readiness to offer Nigerians the best of service with 5G technology, when it became the first telecom operator to roll out 5G technology services on its network on August 24, 2022. MTN Nigeria kicked off an open 5G pilot in the lead-up to its highly anticipated commercial launch.
Consumers’ Experience with 5G
A few subscribers who shared their 5G experience with THISDAY, said they were excited at the incredible connectivity speed with zero latency to complete each task, coupled with the clear voice quality and picture quality of downloaded online materials. They however said the data consumption rate appeared much higher than the 3G and 4G networks.
Mr. David Ikechukwu, one of the MTN subscribers with a 5 G-enabled smartphone who experienced the 5G technology on the MTN network from Lagos, described it as mind-blowing.
“The 5G experience is awesome because of its incredible high speed of connectivity, but my challenge with it is that the rate of consumption is on the high side. What it means is that subscribers must have enough data to experience the swiftness of 5G. People that manage data cannot use 5G for now, except the operator work on the fast data depletion rate, which I think will be a thing of concern to many subscribers. It is however a technology of choice. Those that cannot afford the data will rather remain with 3G and 4G technology,” Ikechukwu said.
Mrs. Grace Babajide, who experienced the Airtel 5G launch last week, said the 5G experience was wonderful because of its high download speed.
“In seconds, I was able to download movies of two gigabytes and three gigabytes. Though it consumes data faster, the experience cannot be compared with the data consumption because the download speed is extremely fast and saves a lot of time,” Babajide said.
She, however, said the majority of Nigerians do not have 5G-enabled devices to connect to the 5G network, and raised concern about the likely high cost of 5G devices, by the time they become available.
As more operators roll out their 5G network, consumer behavior is likely to change, based on the offering of 5G, which will enable increased consumer engagement on social media platforms. With 5G, software developers, Fintech solution developers, including content creators for mobile devices, will engage more with their audience on different social media platforms, because 5G will allow for easy and faster navigation online.