In Nigeria, Mohammed Rufia, the Chief Technical Officer of MTN, recently spoke on the progress the telecom operator has made in deploying 5G technology across the country. He also spoke on the future of 2G and 3G in Nigeria.
Rufia said, “As you are aware, we participated in the auction of the 5G spectrum, and MTN Nigeria is one of the winners who got the 100 megahertz or 3.5 gigahertz spectrum. Following the approval of the NCC, we have rolled out initially, starting with about seven cities, but now we are in 13 cities and over 700 sites in Nigeria. We had the launch event in Lagos, where we demonstrated the use cases. We have rolled out what 5G can be used for and what it can do in several parts of the country, and that rollout is continuing. So, right now, we are in 13 cities (Lagos, FCT, Owerri, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Abeokuta, Shagamu, Ifo, Warri, Enugu, Benin City, Kano, Port Harcourt etc.) and are still expanding. Nigerians are already enjoying the benefits of 5G.”
“The first and most important thing to have when rolling out 5G is the spectrum, and we have the spectrum. We also have the preceding technology, 4G, and the sites and fibre infrastructure required for connectivity. So with all that, we were ready to roll out 5G from a technology point of view. We also have the capacity, the core network, and the features to be able to deploy. We have the technical know-how and subscribers that have the devices to be able to use 5G. So we were ready. Nigeria was prepared for 5G. We have all the things that we need. As with all of our technologies, we deploy them in phases. So we start in a few cities, then expand, and subscribers will also adopt and get the devices over time and adopt the technology. So, I would say that Nigeria was ready when we launched the network and is progressing. We are going to be seeing more and more adoption in the future.
Commenting on why the telecom operator renewed its 3G license despite the 5G launch, Rufia said, “The fact that we are going to 5G does not mean we will not cater to the needs of subscribers that require the lower technology. As you are aware, devices have to be compatible with 5G for them to be used. We have many subscribers in Nigeria that have 2G and 3G devices, and we will continue to cater to the needs of those subscribers. So, while investing in new technology, we must also maintain the other technologies that are needed by the people that use them and those that don’t yet have the devices for the newer technologies. So, this is the reason why we are still investing in and expanding on the old technologies, and also because the spectrum, the license allocated by NCC, and the network resources that are used for 3G can also be used on other technologies in the future, so the investment is still usable for the higher technologies when the devices are ready.