MTN has initiated a trial phase of its 5G technology in Nigeria ahead of commercial launch in seven cities including Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri, Maiduguri and Abuja. The pilot trial is coming more than eight months after MTN, and Mafab Communications Limited won bidding slots available for the start of the spectrum services in the country.
Speaking on the pilot kickoff, Adia Sowho, Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Nigeria, said, “Every major technological evolution redefines what is possible – changing how we live and connect. MTN Nigeria has been at the forefront of every leap in telecommunications: from GSM to 2G, 3G, and 4G. 5G has the potential to change everything. It will allow us to connect, create, collaborate, and compete in ways we have not even begun to imagine,”
The much talked about 5G is a fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks that cellular companies began deploying in 2019. It is a planned successor to the 4G network that the majority of cell phones currently use. Importantly, faster data speed, increased reliability, and a much-lower latency are the dominant state-of-the-art attributes of the 5G technology.
No date has been disclosed for the full operation of the 5G network in the designated states yet. Also noteworthy is the fact that the presence of a 5G network in your state or city does not necessarily mean you will be a beneficiary of the service for the time being.
The 5G is fast, but can not travel long distances as its services will only be available in 81 locations in Lagos, 42 in Abuja, 30 in Port Harcourt and 13 in Oyo state. To avoid a needless purchase, users can go to MTN’s pre-order page to see if their area is enlisted under the coverage area. Although only the 5G router is available, the company is planning to roll out Mi-Fis for ease of mobility.
To access the 5G network, MTN said customers would 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. MTN wants customers to pre-order 5G routers (white, black or yellow) on the MTN website for ₦50,000 ($118). Users have access to connect multiple devices (up to 32) to the Router, and upon activation, users get a 100GB data bonus.
MTN further shared that, “only customers with phones and devices that have certain features will have the leave to connect with and try out the new service where coverage is available.”
Sadly, most gadgets we use presently are not 5G enabled. And the high cost of 5G-compliant phones can hinder the technology’s quick uptake. A 5G device currently runs around $350. This may be costly for citizens of a country where the minimum wage is N30,000 ($71) per month. Although some device manufacturers have committed to bringing costs down to around $150, many industry analysts believe that 5G devices need to be at about $50 to support mass adoption across Africa.
MTN data plans are also expected to change slightly due to user behaviour. A faster internet translates to more data consumption. Hence, the company will increase the size of its data bundle. Users who presently enjoy up to 4.5 TB data bundle would be able to subscribe for something higher. Amazingly, no additional fee will be required to use the 5G service. The current prices of data bundles remain the same.
Presently, the 5G service is supporting Nokia, Huawei, and Xiaomi gadgets. While some Samsung phones can access it, the telecommunication giant is working on expanding its access with the brand and Apple before the end of the year. Largely, the telecom company is working with manufacturers to provide devices that suit their consumers’ needs.
Of the two operators that got the 5G license after paying $276 million, only MTN has rolled out the 5G technology in selected locations in Nigeria. The second operator with the 5G license, Mafab Communications, was given a 5-month extension for its rollout by the Nigerian Communications Commission over delays in receiving the numbering plan.
To a reasonable extent, it stands at an advantage over its fellow 5G operator, not only because the telecommunication giant was the first to do a pilot test but also because MTN is already a household name in the country with several subscribers. However, the presence of Mafab in the 5G realm could foster healthy competition between the two operators and give service users options to choose from.
However, MTN is a step ahead of other competitive telecoms giants like Airtel and Glo in the 5G realm. On the continent, Nigeria is now in the same league as Kenya and South Africa in the quest for mainstream 5G adoption.
Earlier, we discussed how the 5G technology could transform the Nigerian economy, dwelling on its projected impact in sectors of education, finance, security, agriculture, healthcare, entertainment, and even governance itself. The spectrum holds a promising future for technology in Nigeria and is projected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy by 2034, according to a 2020 GSMA Intelligence report.
The implementation of 5G will expedite the realization of some sectoral policies in the country aimed at boosting Nigeria’s digital economy. For example, the Nigerian National Broadband Plan targets a broadband coverage of 70 per cent by 2025 for Nigeria’s over 200 million population. But, the latest figures by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) reveal the figure is still at 44.5 per cent.
With only three years left, there is an urgent need to reach and surpass the target. Only time will tell if the 5G technology is at a vantage to help achieve the target faster.