Nigerian regulator hits out at networks as 5G winners told to start in August

Umar Danbatta NCC.jpg

The Nigerian regulator has criticised mobile operators’ coverage of the country, while urging victors in a recent auction to start rolling out 5G services on the 3.5GHz spectrum in August.

Umar Danbatta (pictured), executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said he wanted to ensure that 5G technology is deployed in Nigeria in a manner beneficial to all telecoms consumers.

“The fact is that more citizens will embrace digital financial literacy when they have access to telecommunications services in the remote, isolated, unserved and underserved communities where they live,” said Danbatta.

Two operators won last year’s 3.5GHz spectrum auction, MTN Nigeria, part of the South African group, and Mafab Communications, a Nigerian interconnect and international carrier service provider that works with fixed and mobile operators.

But more than 35 million people lack access to telecommunications services in Nigeria despite growing investment in the sector, said the NCC. This situation is due in particular to “the inadequacy of the wireless and fibre optic connectivity infrastructure”, said Danbatta.

He told a conference in Lagos that the 5G operators should start to roll out services in August this year.

“The final letters of award have been issued to MTN and Mafab Communications,” he said. The licensees are expected to commence rollout of 5G services from 24 August. “The successful completion of the process leading to the final letters is confirmation that the rollout of 5G technology services in Nigeria is on course.”

He said he wants the industry to provide 120,000km of fibre and achieve a penetration of 70%, with data download speeds across Nigeria of a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas.”

He said the coverage should be available to at least 90% of the population at a price not exceeding 390 naira per 1GB of data by the end of 2025.” At current exchange rates, 390 naira is equivalent to US$0.94. The price is equivalent to 2% of median income or 1% of minimum wage, said the NCC.