A year into its launch in Nigeria, the Fifth-Generation (5G) network has hit the 500,000 mark. This was stated by the Executive Vice Chairman, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta at a media forum.
Recall that Nigeria joined other countries that launched 5G in August 2022, when licensees that participated in the December 2021 spectrum auction, began to roll out services commercially.
Indeed, three operators including MTN, Airtel and Mafab Communications have been licensed by the NCC to provide 5G services in Nigeria. The 5G auction in Nigeria fetched the Federal Government over $820 million in revenue.
MTN started with a pilot service in August last year, went commercial a month after and has extended services to about 13 cities in the country. Mafab Communications, which won the license at the same time as MTN, had a media launch earlier in January. Though the NCC has come out to claim that the firm (Mafab) has rolled out services in Lagos and Abuja, Nigerians are however, yet to feel 5G service from the firm. Airtel, which got the license in December 2022, rolled out the service in June. It is interesting to note that as of July 2023, the NCC puts 5G subscriptions at 60,000 of the Nigerian population.
In a statement by the NCC and signed by its Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, the Commission affirmed readiness to ensure more Nigerians have access to 5G technology.
Danbatta disclosed the various efforts of the Commission to improve broadband penetration, saying they are yielding fruitful results. He puts the current penetration estimates as of July 2023 at 47.01 per cent.
Danbatta at the meeting noted that the national target to achieve 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025 is receiving renewed attention from the NCC, assuring that 50 would be achieved before the end of 2023.
Highlighting his achievements since the assumption of office till date, the EVC spoke to 119 milestones achieved under the five strategic pillars, including regulatory excellence, universal broadband, market development, digital economy, and strategic collaboration.
Danbatta said through the effective implementation of NCC’s mandates under his leadership and the cooperation of internal and external stakeholders since 2015, the telecommunications industry in Nigeria has achieved remarkable milestones under our leadership.
“While we acknowledge the challenges encountered by the industry, we have also witnessed explosive growth, improved regulatory standards, and digital innovations that have garnered global recognition,” he said.
While reeling out statistics that have characterized his leadership at NCC from 2015 to date, the EVC said active telephone subscribers had increased from less than 150.7 million to 218.9 million, representing a teledensity growth of 115.70 per cent from 107.87 per cent in 2015.
Through stimulating broadband infrastructure across the country, Danbatta said broadband penetration, which stood at six per cent in 2015 has increased significantly to 47.01 per cent as of July 2023, enhancing over 89.73 million subscriptions on 3G, 4G and 5G networks in the country.
Additionally, general Internet subscriptions have reached 159.5 million up from less than 100 million in 2015.
In a related development, the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has called for a joint global effort to achieve universal and meaningful connectivity by 2030 at its yearly Fall Meeting held at the weekend at UN Headquarters in New York.
According to the Commission, the collaborative effort must ensure that people around the world are not only connected but that they also have the skills and knowledge to use that connectivity.
The Broadband Commission, a high-level public-private partnership fostering digital cooperation and developing actionable recommendations for achieving universal connectivity, stressed that accelerating universal and meaningful connectivity through partnership and cooperation is essential to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Commission Co-Chair, Carlos Slim, said: “We need to build a digital future that is inclusive, affordable, sustainable, safe and people-centered.
“There should be no digital deserts in the world, and there should be no one excluded from connectivity. People have the right to enjoy a safe, productive and affordable online experience. Broadband should enhance the quality of life of everyone.”
At the meeting, the Commission called for innovative investment models to bring together private and public stakeholders to deliver meaningful access and content to those most in need.
“As technology advances and 2.6 billion people remain unconnected, it’s crucial to prioritize universal and affordable broadband access, coupled with investments in digital skills, and the elements that truly define meaningful connectivity, such as inclusive and localized digital content, accessible hardware, cybersecurity measures, and policies that ensure digital inclusion for all,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, representing Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Co-Chair of the Commission.
The Broadband Commission’s meeting comes amid the recent ITU announcement that 2.6 billion people across the world still lack access to the Internet in 2023. The reduction from the estimated 2.7 billion people offline in 2022 leaves about one-third of the global population unconnected.
This year’s yearly meeting also took place ahead of SDG Digital, an event convened by the ITU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to highlight how digital solutions can support the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Tech is racing ahead and billions of people are being left behind,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a Co-Vice Chair of the Commission. “Our task is to invest in affordable broadband, digital skills, and everything that makes connectivity meaningful.”