Olushola Okunlade Writes
…Theme; “Deployment of New Technology for Improved Consumer Experience; 5G Misconeptions and Conspiracy Theory”
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reiterated its commitment to interest of telecom consumers, correct misconceptions and conspiracy theory in the Fifth Generation Technology (5G) telecom industry, as it hosts the second quarter meeting of Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF), the meeting of the forum held yesterday at Providence Hotel, Ikeja in Lagos.
“Mobile technology has transformed our way of life, Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, Assitant Director Consumer Affairs Bureau, said while appreciating the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of NCC, Mr Efosa Idehen who represented the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CEO) of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta.
The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CEO) of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said “the Commission as the independent National Regulatory Authority for the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, is saddled with the mandate of regulating Telecommunications network depolyment and service delivery in Nigeria. Pivotal to this mandate, is the responsibility to protect and promote the interest of telecom consumers. It is therefore not surprising that the commission places a high premium on the issues of consumer protection and empowerment particularly by ensuring that telecom consumers are treated fairly at all times.”
The well-attended event attracted cross-sections of the industry stakeholders, including the regulators, telecoms firms, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), vendors, industry professional associations, consumer advocacy groups, the media and members of the academia.
Prof. Danbatta, represented at the ICAF 2021 forum by Mr. Efosa Idehen, Director of Consumer Affairs of NCC, in his address assured stakeholders and consumers that telecoms regulatory Commission would also ensure compliance with the extant policy documents, including the Annual Operating Levy Regulations (AOL) and Frequency Spectrum (Fees and Pricing, etc.) Regulations in the ongoing process of fully activating the Nigerian digital economy.
Igho Majemite, Immediate Past Chairman of ICAF, said the advisory group is in support of the deployment of 5G technology in the country. Majemite stated that 5G network and future faster communication technologies will facilitate greater Ease of Doing Business in the economy.
He, therefore, called for concerted efforts by especially stakeholders in the Nigerian telecommunications industry to achieve enviable Quality of Service (QoS) and better consumer experience.
Earlier in his presentation, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, President of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), had emphasised the need for continued engagement of consumers and the Nigerian public at large by considering their concerns and questions related to the imminent deployment of 5G technology in this era of Internet of Things (IoT) in the country.
Adebayo noted that the regulator needs to create more awareness ahead of the deployment of the network for more reception and acceptability by the people.
The ALTON President, however, charged the industry regulators to address certain industry-related challenges for effective deployment of the broadband technology to attain Nigerian digital economy.
He tasked the authorities to tackle, among others, issues of cost of technology equipment, Right of Way (RoW), consistency in policy/regulatory regime, telecoms tax, and what is he described as the “available but not affordable electricity.”
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive (EVC/CEO) of the Commission’s Statement Reads
It is my pleasure and indeed a great honour to be in your midst at this 2nd Quarter meeting and the Open Forum of the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF), which is an initiative of the Nigerian Communications Commission”.
“The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), as the independent National Regulatory Authority for the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, is saddled with the mandate of regulating Telecommunications network deployment and service delivery in Nigeria. Pivotal to this mandate is the responsibility to protect and promote the interest of telecom consumers. It is therefore not surprising that the Commission places a high premium on the issues of consumer protection and empowerment particularly by ensuring that telecom consumers are treated fairly at all times”.
The advent and continuous evolvement of new technologies is driving a wide array of services in the global space. Digital technologies are ushering in new possibilities such as improved broadband services, smart cities evolution, financial services and inclusion, security, e-commerce, education, et cetera which is increasing consumer expectation for new services and solutions to address some of the challenges of our daily lives. To this end, the Fifth Generation Technology or 5G, as it is popularly called, is one of the new technologies identified and regarded as a game changer. It is therefore appropriate that this open forum is focused on the theme: “Deployment of New Technology for Improved Consumer Experience; 5G Misconceptions and Conspiracy Theory”.
The 5G communication technology is the next evolution of the mobile communications technology which is capable of creating new opportunities for growth in the economy by enabling new and dynamic business models and opening up new opportunities and markets. Not only this, it also provides tremendous improvements in interpersonal communications with several innovations and services.
Technology has revolutionized our lives in recent decades. Excellent tools and resources are delivering helpful information at our fingertips. Computers, smartphones, smartwatches, and other technology-dependent devices are bringing multi-functional comfort and utility.Advancements in technology are making medical diagnostics more intelligent and user-friendly. Social apps and instant messaging have birthed a connected world as well as a global village.
Predictive studies foresee a digitally savvy world with Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Automation flourishing by 2030. According to Internet World Stats, there are over 4 billion active Internet users globally. Technology has reached phenomenal growth, and its massive influence on living a healthy, productive, and smart life cannot be overemphasised.
We cannot overemphasis or forget in a hurry the critical role played by technology in keeping the world and particularly Nigeria connected when the Covid 19 Pandemic disrupted almost every aspect of human life and interaction. It was technology that came to our rescue by ensuring that we could still hold meetings irrespective of locations or continents, conduct businesses, engage in financial transactions, keep our children learning using online platforms, enjoy various entertainment and kept abreast with news and happenings. This goes to prove not just the centrality of technology but also the place of ICT as a key enabler of our socio-economic life.
There is no doubt that this “new era of survival” has nudged Nigeria to accelerate technological innovations and the development of emerging technologies. I am therefore particularly gratified that the ICT sector has been exemplary in advancing growth without breaching official protocols instituted to manage the spread of the pandemic.
It is indeed noteworthy that the NCC has been consistent and profound in instituting regulatory measures that will promote 5G deployment.
Regulatory Efforts in Nigeria and Status of 5G
In the last quarter of 2019, the NCC commenced the Proof of Concept trials of 5G in selected locations across the Country to gain insight into the potential economic benefits as well as security and safety challenges that may be associated with deployment of 5G in the Country.
However, we are all witnesses to the widespread concerns that greeted this regulatory move by the government. There were misconceptions, orchestrated misinformation and disinformation, in both online and historical media, linking 5G with COVID-19 pandemic and cancer. Based on the tension created, the government, in its wisdom, directed that a more robust investigation be carried out to ascertain the actual national security and health implications of 5G deployment on the people of Nigeria.
Investigations have so far been conducted and the outcome of the inquiry made public. You may therefore ask: What is the current status of 5G in Nigeria? Well, I am happy to inform you that The Senate, the upper arm of Nigeria’s bicameral legislature, has adopted recommendations of its joint committee, which was constituted last year to ascertain the technological impact of 5G deployment on Nigerian citizens.
The Senate was convinced that the technological impact of 5G will transform our lives, in education, agriculture, security, entertainment, and indeed, in governance in general, when the technology is deployed. The Senate’s decision to recommend the deployment of the 5G technology was based on information provided by relevant government establishments, private sector organisations and industry experts who maintained that 5G poses no risks to human life.”
“Whilst we deferred to counsel by observing the trend of 5G deployments around the globe before we take a plunge, as a responsible Regulator, we are also engaging all stakeholders in extensive sensitization through cross-media and multimedia channels before the commencement of commercial deployments of 5G in Nigeria. Objectively, we also expect various ongoing regulatory efforts at deepening broadband deployment to provide robust infrastructure that will trigger Nigeria’s ability to leverage the benefits of new technologies for the advancement of our digital economy.”
“As a precursor to the commencement of commercial deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) network in the Country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) submitted a 5G Development Plan (5GDP) to the Federal Government for final approval towards effective deployment of the technology to cover major urban areas by 2025.”
“The Plan is to ensure efficient assignment of spectrum for deployment of 5G technology; create an enabling environment for investment in the industry; ensure the security of the 5G ecosystem and the protection of data; as well as ensure that international best practices and globally-accepted standards and specifications are entrenched in Nigeria’s 5G ecosystem.”
“For us at NCC, riding on the crest of the support of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, we will continue to work collaboratively with necessary stakeholders across sectors to ensure that factors impeding faster deployment of broadband infrastructure and adoption of these new technologies are tackled. We will also ensure compliance with extant policy documents such as the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030, the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, the Nigerian Communications Commission Strategic Management Plan 2020-2024, and similar documents that serve as compass in our journey to a full digital economy.”
“Finally, I wish, to thank the leadership and members of ICAF for the sustained collaboration with the Commission, especially your contributions on initiatives that have strengthened consumer protection, information and education as evidenced by the recent launch Telecom Consumer Handbook that was published early this year. Telecom Consumers are encouraged to read the handbook for better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as important stakeholders in the Telecommunications industry and use the book as a guide in making informed decisions on telecom products and services.”
“I have no doubt that considering the eminent speakers and panellists invited to discuss and deliberate on the theme of the forum, we should gear up for insightful, enriching and robust discussion that would provide very useful and expert information which will further shape our perception on the new technologies and its attendant benefits for enhanced consumer experience and socio-economic development”, he concluded.