" ITREALMS: Between 5G & COVID-19: A marriage made in China - ITREALMS

Monday, May 18, 2020

Between 5G & COVID-19: A marriage made in China - ITREALMS

Many things have taken shapes since the COVID-19 index case in Wahun, China and then later in Nigeria. One of them has been the unending controversies linked to 5G and attendant collaborative responses by ALTON, MoCDE, ATCON and NCC, which spells good omen for the sector harmony only if it could be tapped and nurtured, writes REMMY NWEKE.


Often it is said that in every situation, there are beneficiaries and this does not tend to elude the Nigerian Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector and particularly the telecommunications.
And so has been the controversies surrounding the spread of ChineseVirus-19 also known as Coronavirus or COVID-19, considering that in recent weeks, and for the first time, the telecommunications sector received the voices of key stakeholders in the sector in unison.

In fact this has not happened since mid-2019, as investigations revealed. So, it was a pleasant surprise for most industry watchers, to see the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (MoCDE), Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and of course the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); all in re-echoing same position, courtesy of Fifth Generation (5G) technologies versus COVID-19 hullaballoo.

And not only queuing up behind 5G, they vehemently denounced all rumours and scientifically unsubstantiated theories of all manners by emergency experts.

For instance, it became the first in history since the creation or renaming of the current MoCDE, that the Minister, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, ALTON, and ATCON seem to have for once forgotten their individual interests and be on the same page, thereby placing Nigerian telecommunications consumers and the industry first.

This marriage literally consummated under the influence of ChineseVirus-19 also known as CoronaVirus or COVID-19, is not entirely strange, although even the literary ‘wedding ring’ which happens to be the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) expectedly aligned with the above trio, especially in a single day, the trio of NCC, ALTON and ATCON issued industry positions on the burgeoning controversy of any Nigeria’s plan to marry 5G on creation or escalation of COVID-19.

This re-enforced the position of MoCDE to issue a press statement barely 24 hours after. Thus commendable, given the alacrity of these proclamations falling upon each other, considering that all these were happening on a weekend without movement, but riding on technologies, they got this delivered almost concurrently.

ITU on 5G:
Experts have defined 5G as the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies supporting cellular data. The industry project under the auspices of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) also delineates any system using "5G NR" (5G New Radio) software as "5G". While International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT-2020) are the requirements issued by the ITU Radiocommunication Sector in 2015, for 5G networks, devices and services, as such is expected to continue to be developed from 2020 onwards, with 5G trials and pre-commercial activities already underway to assist in evaluating the candidate technologies and frequency bands that may be used for this purpose.

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project is an umbrella for a number of standards organizations which develop protocols for mobile telecommunications uniting currently seven telecommunications standard development organizations, namely the Japanese Association of Radio

Industries and Businesses (ARIB), the United States-based Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), China Communications Standards Association (CCSA), European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI), Korean Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA), and Telecommunication Technology Committee, (TTC) Japan), who provides members with a stable environment to produce the reports and specifications that define 3GPP technologies. This covers cellular telecommunications technologies, including radio access, core network and service capabilities, which provide a complete system description for mobile telecommunications.

ITREALMS gathered that the three Technical Specification Groups (TSG) in 3GPP centres on the Radio Access Networks (RAN), Services & Systems Aspects (SA), and Core Network & Terminals (CT) in liaison with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). While the name used in ITU for the standards of 5G, is expected to continue to be developed from 2020 onwards, with 5G trials and pre-commercial activities already underway to assist in evaluating the requisite technologies and frequency bands that may be used for this purpose.

Nigeria not yet on 5G:
According to MoCDE Minister, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, in the first instance, Nigeria has no 5G license yet, declaring the purported deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) networks in Nigeria as false, moreso, there is no frequency spectrum released in this regard. Positing that his attention was drawn to the public concern about the health implications of the deployment of 5G Mobile Networks in Nigeria and based on available records he clarified as follows:

"i. The National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), of which I am the Chairman, has not deliberated on or released any bulk frequency spectrum for the deployment of 5G; ii. No license has been issued for the deployment of 5G in the country; iii. A 3-month study trial commenced on the 25th of November, 2019 in order to critically review and study the health and security implications of deploying 5G in Nigeria; iv. As part of the study trial process, I directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure that a team of experts, security agencies and other stakeholders fully participate in the trial process and my office also invited these agencies to participate in the trial; and
v. The trial process has been concluded and the study and reporting process is currently ongoing."

As said by Pantami, the President, General Muhammadu Buhari, retired, places a premium on the welfare, health and security of Nigerians. "As such, our desire for technological advancement will never be at the expense of the health and welfare of our citizens," he declared, assuring that FG will not act on the speculations only, but rather will take an informed decision on 5G after due consultation with experts and the public.

"I have also directed the NCC to engage citizens on any questions or concerns they may have regarding 5G ... We advise you all to remain rest assured that government will always take the welfare, health and security of the public into account while considering the deployment of any technology," he assured.

ALTON responds to emergency experts:
The umbrella of mobile network operators in the country, ALTON, in its response on the controversy, dispelled the rumours making a round that current laying of fibre cables especially in Lagos State has anything to do with rolling out of 5G networks. They advised Nigerians to discountenance a purported claim that 5G is the root of Covid-19, which lacks scientific prove.

"ALTON hereby affirms that fibre cables are used to safeguard the existing 1G/2G/3G/4G networks and provide additional capacity to the existing networks, which is intended to enhance user experience and network availability,” he said.

ALTON’s chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo said Nigerians should disregard the video making a round on social media, stressing that there is no scientific basis for the claim that 5G is responsible for COVID-19.

The world, ALTON said, is still searching for the cure of COVID and had not been traced to anything, let alone telecommunications, cautioning that Nigerians should be careful about spreading such information. Declaring, “Science is different from fiction and the peddlers of such information should be careful not to misinform the public.”

The Federal Government, Adebayo noted, is already doing a lot to curb the spread and this type of information is capable of causing diversion from the reality of what the world is facing and the scientific steps needed to curtail the spread.

He urged all well-meaning citizens of the world especially in Nigeria to continue to join hands with Government in their efforts “to keep us all safe.”

Adebayo posited that looking at 5G penetrating so far and the number of countries with incidences of mortality due to Covid-19, there is no basis to relate this to 5G.

“Many of those countries do not have 5G in commercial use. This virus was said to have started in Wuhan in China, there are many other provinces of China with 5G that were not affected by the virus,” he pointed out, maintaining that there is no scientific prove and this rumor should be discontented.

ITREALMS gathered that there have been extensive social media outrages over audio clips circulating on social media especially WhatsApp and Telegram by a Nigerian living in United Kingdom (UK) and unknown former CEO of Vodafone that 5G is the root of current pandemic occasioned as Chinese Virus-19 also known as Coronavirus or COVID-19.
ATCON says claims 5G causes Coronavirus is baseless:

For ATCON, the news suggesting that 5G network causes coronavirus is baseless, and untrue, according to its President, Mr. Olusola Teniola. He described as unfounded the claims and misinformation that is trending on all social media like Facebook, WhatsAapp, Twitter, LinkedIn and a host of others. Insisting without any equivocation, that the purported claims that 5G is responsible for COVID-19 is unfounded and should be discountenanced by Nigerians as it remains "false information."

In addition, ATCON said, the claims have not been substantiated, by any conclusive empirical evidence, by either the World Health Organisation or other health research institutions. Maintaining that "There has been no issuance of 5G Licence to any of our members to build and deploy 5G network in Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). However, what has happened recently was just a trial of the 5G network by one of our members which was well supervised by the telecoms regulator.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) they stated clearly that there is not yet any conclusive scientific evidence to the effect that there are adverse health effects caused by telecommunications infrastructure to human with respect to exposure to the non-ionising radiation emitting by telecoms base stations.

NCC insists ‘No 5G installing satellite in Nigeria’:
The telecom apex regulator, NCC, through its Director, Public Affairs, Dr. Henry Nkemadu asked Nigerians to avoid being distracted by such fake news videos, saying that currently, Nigeria is not installing any satellite with respect to 5G, therefore the claims are unfounded, and also dismissed claims on 5G as the cause of Corona virus as propaganda, stressing that the world is in a perilous times and everybody seem to be looking for what to hang unto.

“Some are using them to preach end times and all manner of things,” he asserted, advising Nigerians to focus on the more likely the threat of 5G that requires robust societal conversations, which borders on adoption for an open society.

Though a welcome development, industry watchers look forward to seeing more consummations where all the four will stand firm on subject with respect to respective independence, especially for NCC, but for how long this marriage would last, remain unknown.

Yet some observers postulated 2023, others say it would be the shortest marriage by last quarter, when the fate of current leadership of NCC would know their fate; either reappointed for a second term or entire new landscape will emerge.

Though some have argued that Chinese “products” do not last, industry watchers believed that when this marriage is worked on with associated sectorial collaborative engagement that was elucidated by 5G controversies, that the nation will be better for it, while each party must observe and maintain their statutory boundaries.

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