The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the controversial Fifth Generation Networks Policy otherwise known as 5G for the nation.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Patami, who disclosed this Wednesday while speaking with newsmen at the end of the weekly FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, also revealed that the council, in approving the policy, took cognisance of the report of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) that pronounced the policy safe to human health.
He further revealed that the radiation of the 5G policy is lower than that of 4G currently in use by Nigerians, while the deployment of the policy, which is with immediate effect, will be carried out in phases between now and 2025.
The minister listed the benefits of the policy to include higher data rate, larger capacity, and lower latency, while it will also open many opportunities economically, academically and render necessary support to the security agencies in areas where they need high-quality frequency.
Pantami also explained that it took the government close to two years to come up with the 5G policy because of the initial resistance by stakeholders.
He said: “I presented before the Federal Executive Council, which has also been approved after deliberation. That is the National Policy on Fifth Generation Networks for Nigeria’s digital economy, the national policy on 5G. So, that policy has been approved by the Federal Executive Council today.
“Furthermore, the policy discusses the benefits to be attained through the deployment of 5G in Nigeria and in any part of the world which includes lower latency, larger capacity, and higher data rate. These are the three major benefits of the fifth generation. And in a simple language, we can say it will open many opportunities economically, academically, educationally, and even in the health sector.
“And it will also support our security institutions, particularly in areas where they need high-quality services. So, these are some of the benefits to be anticipated when fifth-generation or 5G is deployed in Nigeria.
“And prior to that, as you all know, in 2020, there was a time that we started working, and we started the fifth generation trials. And there was a complaint from citizens about the relationship between 5G and COVID-19. Because our government is a responsible one, we put everything on hold. We engage more stakeholders.
“We spend almost 18 months working on that. And we also wait for the resolution and verdict of the two most important organisations globally when it comes to the deployment of telecommunications facilities. These are firstly International Telecommunications Union. That is ITU, which is an arm of the United Nations, and also the World Health Organisation, that is WHO, which is another arm of the United Nations.
“Both of them confirm that there is no adverse health effects of 5G and it has not been proven to be any harmful to our health.”
The minister said 5G’s frequency and radiation are even lower than that of 4G, adding that it is lower than the televisions and microwave Nigerians have at home.
“So, they have already issued that. And they explain its safety, and also they advise nations on the regulations and the standards to be used in the course of the deployment. And this is something that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been directed to ensure that all the standards, regulations are complied with,” he said.
Pantami explained that Nigerians would recall that in order to create awareness and sensitise the people, the NCC has been reaching out to citizens through local languages to let them know the advantages of 5G.
“Even the deployment is in phases, we can only start with major cities in Nigeria, where there is need for very high quality broadband. So, only few places will start to benefit from it. And we do hope that the plan will come up immediately. That will show that from now to 2025, we will be able to ensure that significant towns and cities in the country will also benefit from 5G,” the minister stated.
He added that stakeholders’ meetings were held in six different stages including the National Assembly before the presentation of the memo to the FEC for approval on Wednesday.
According to him, “We organised stakeholders meeting prior to the presentation of the memo in at least five to six stages. We were in the National Assembly for a public hearing, in which stakeholders were invited. We did the trials of 5G on 29 November 2019, which I personally did the trial here in Abuja. And we conducted the same trial in five other cities in the country. And this is to show to us that government has engaged citizens and at the same time allowed experts and other stakeholders to make recommendations, suggestions, and even constructive criticism, where necessary in order to ensure a successful deliberation before the deployment.”
He also revealed that the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), under his chairmanship, will soon release the spectrum to the NCC for the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) that meet all the required conditions.
The NCC, as the regulator of the telecommunications sector, will continue engaging stakeholders with a view to developing the regulatory instruments required for the successful deployment of the technology in Nigeria.
“The National Frequency Management Council, which is the statutory council in which I happen to be the chair, will release the spectrum of 5G to the Nigerian Communications Commission in bulk when the conditions of deployment are met so that the Nigerian Communications Commission on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria will release the spectrum to the mobile network operators for the deployment of 5G. With the approval of this national policy on fifth generation, or 5G, NCC has been directed to start working immediately to come up with regulatory instrument that will ensure its safety, and many more.
“Our government gives more priority and preference to the health and security of our citizens as stipulated in the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 as amended under Section 14, Subsection 2 Article B. So, that is why our subsidiary legislation is going to be developed to ensure that 5G will only be useful in Nigeria, and we cannot allow it to be harmful in any place,” he said.
Patami stressed that the 5G policy is currently in operation in most European countries as well as some African countries, while some are at the verge of introducing the policy.
The minister said: “Let us all recall that it has been deployed in the US, in the UK, in Switzerland, in Germany, and in so many European countries. It has also been developed in the Republic of Korea and China. And it has also been deployed in Africa, especially South Africa and Lesotho.
“And there are other countries that are also working in the same pace we have been, like Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and Egypt. All of them are just at the last stage of the deployment of 5G and I congratulate Nigerians for getting the memo approved by the Federal Executive Council. And I do hope that we will soon benefit from 5G to get high quality broadband.”