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Here’s How Africa can Adopt 5G and also Address Digital Divide

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By Christoph Fitih, Director Sales – Africa, Parallel Wireless

By Christoph Fitih

The African telecom service providers are not leaving any stone unturned to catch the 5G bandwagon. They have been, in fact, on the forefront of all the efforts made for the global rollout of 5G services.

Some service providers on the continent have already initiated trials and pilots of the 5G technology. While Vodacom recently launched Africa’s first commercial 5G network in Lesotho, a tiny country landlocked in the Southern Africa, others like MTN and Rain have also started 5G trials. Rain recently announced that it would be launching commercial 5G services soon.

The buzz in the African market around 5G is not without a reason. The excitement that the telecom operators in the region are showing is backed by the ‘revolutionizing’ potential behind 5G. Owing to its features like ultra-high internet speed, extremely low latency and 1000 times better bandwidth and ubiquitous coverage, 5G presents an excellent opportunity for the service providers to tackle the issue of difficult terrain and lack of infrastructure in the region.

Besides, 5G services would enable governments in the continent to take essential services like education, health, and security to the remotest areas through digital platforms. The technology allows service providers to offer many innovative use cases like remote surgery, autonomous driving and augmented reality.

 

The leap of faith

The action around 5G on the continent is nothing less than a leap of faith. Going beyond the glamourous use cases of 5G, there are other use cases of the technology which are extremely relevant for a growing and developing region like Africa.

At the same time, there is no running away from the fact that Africa continues to be struggling with providing basic connectivity to the people. Mobile penetration in Africa stands at meagerly 44%, while internet penetration is at a lowly 25-30% against the global average of 43%. And here is a dose of reality check – even as we talk about 5G in Africa, 60% of users on the continent are still on the primary 2G network, and by 2025 as many as 62% users are likely to be on 3G, 30% on 4G and only a tiny section of the users, 3%, are likely to be on 5G network.

These are anything but encouraging estimates for service providers bullish on 5G services in the region. However, 5G can help the administration and the service providers in addressing the digital divide, which in turn will bring down poverty and provide more opportunities for growth to the people.

A different approach

5G needs a whole new plan in terms of network architecture and the way communication networks are operated and managed today. For example, for the 5G network to achieve low latency of less than one millisecond, deep and better coverage, the service providers need to provide for network densification. This is accomplished through adding more cell sites, macro sites and deploying small cells to increase capacity and bandwidth of the network.

Again the service providers would need to leverage the concept of network slicing to live up to the potential of connecting millions of devices and providing customized services to each set of customers within the same network. Slicing, as the name suggests, means dividing the network into different slices with each part working standalone virtualised unit. This allows the service providers to offer fit-to-order services to a different set of customers within the same network without incurring additional cost.

 

Virtualization: The real solution

Service providers in Africa need to adopt virtualisation technology to tie all the loose ends, and successfully roll-out 5G in phases.

Virtualization is nothing but shifting the network from a hardware driven system to a software-driven system. A software-based network has many advantages – less use of heavy hardware, low consumption of energy and space, lower cost of setting up networks and a much more flexible network.

This addresses two issues that the service providers in the region face. One, by virtualizing their networks, they can not only save cost in maintaining existing networks, but the cost of expansion to unconnected regions also comes down drastically.

This ensures that while they can expand their 2G and 3G networks to new areas, they can also at the same time afford to spend on 5G trials and infrastructure building. Virtual networks also support the deployment of higher generation technologies like 4G and 5G on existing 2G/3G networks.

The 5G technology has a lot of potential for taking essential amenities like education and healthcare, among others, to remote areas of Africa at a very minimal cost. However, 5G is a fledgling technology that still needs a lot filling of gaps and adjustments in the existing networks. Adopting the concept of virtualization for expansion allows the service providers to bring down the cost of deploying networks in newer areas and at the same time prepare the networks for early adoption of 5G technology.

Christoph Fitih, is Director Sales – Africa, Parallel Wireless

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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MTN Yet to File Application for Listing on NSE- SEC

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Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), apex capital market regulator, has said that MTN Nigeria has not filed any application that could kick-start regulatory consideration of the proposed listing of the telco on the Nigerian stock market.

 

SEC stated that while there had been some engagements with the telco, MTN Nigeria or its professional parties have not filed any formal application with the apex capital market regulator.

 

MTN recently indicated it plans to list its shares by way of introduction, rather than the initial plan of an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

 

By way of introduction, MTN Nigeria’s existing shares will be admitted to the Daily Official List of the Exchange for trading. MTN indicated it plans to list before the end of this first half.

 

Under the extant rules, a private limited liability company seeking to list its shares shall convert to public limited liability company and register its shares with SEC.

 

For listing by way of introduction, the company will then apply to the relevant Exchange for listing.

In the case of IPO, the company will apply to SEC for approval of the IPO and the relevant Exchange if it intends to list after the IPO.

 

Briefing newsmen after the meeting of the Capital Market Committee (CMC) in Lagos, Ms Mary Uduk, acting director general, Securities and Investment Services, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), noted that there is an established due process for listing and issuance of securities in the Nigerian capital market, which forms the basis for regulatory consideration.

 

“There is no formal application as at now, until when they file application, that’s when we will know what method of listing they want,” Uduk said.

 

MTN Nigeria had in 2016 appointed an advisory team and set out a road map towards listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in 2017.

 

The telco however missed the 2017 target and has since been struggling with the listing.

 

The board of MTN Nigeria had announced the appointment of Stanbic IBTC Capital Limited and its affiliates, Standard Bank of South Africa Limited and Standard Advisory London Limited and Citigroup Global Markets Limited as the joint transaction advisors and joint global coordinators for the proposed listing of MTN Nigeria on the NSE.

 

It should be recalled that as part of the conditions to settle its $3.4 billion fine by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), MTN Nigeria had announced its intention to list its shares on the NSE as soon as commercially and legally possible.

 

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Telcos Mull Tariff Hike over Hostile Environment

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Telecommunications operators are considering an upward review of call tariff in selected states as well as the cost of doing business in the country.

 

It was gathered that this move became necessary in view of the multiple taxes and levies imposed by government agencies in certain states on telecoms infrastructure.

 

Punch learnt that a consultant would be engaged to carry out a cost-based study, which could lead to a higher call tariff on outgoing calls by residents.

 

Over the years, network operators have raised the alarm over arbitrary taxes and levies imposed on the telecoms infrastructure in certain states and subsequent shutdown of Base Transceiver Stations over failure to comply.

 

In January this year, MTN expressed concerns regarding the shutdown of its facilities in Kogi State over allegations that it had not met its tax obligations to the state government.

 

The company alleged that the state government was demanding immediate payment of social service contribution levy, employee development levy and annual rent for Right-of-Way on fibre optics cable, saying payment would amount to multiple taxes.

 

Also in 2018, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) complained of the sealing of hub telecoms stations of its members due to the failure of the operators to comply with the payment of about 36 statutory and non-statutory taxes and levies in Kogi State.

 

At a press conference in Lagos, Gbenga Adebayo, cairman, ALTON, had explained that members of the association had settled all statutory levies and taxes due to the Kogi State Government and had taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that governed business activities within the state.

 

He alleged that an attempt by the Kogi State Government to increase its internally generated revenue would lead to total communications blackout in Kogi State and parts of Abuja, Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger states.

 

“As a result of these actions by the state government, our members are unable to refuel power generators at these sites, a situation which has led to the outage of over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi State. Now, there is likely impact on nine states surrounding Kogi namely: Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger states. These are states sharing borders with Kogi State, and Abuja the FCT inclusive,” Adebayo had said.

 

Also in January last year, major base transceiver stations of network operators in Taraba State were shut over demands for the payment of environmental protection levy of about N285m by each telecoms operator.

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Smile Expands Retail Footprint with Quickteller Paypoint Agents Nationwide

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L-R: , Onyeka Ukpaka, Head, Business Development, Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services; Titilola Shogaolu, Divisional CEO, Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services; Gbolahan Thomas, Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Smile Nigeria; Lotanna Anajemba, Head, Brands and Communications, Smile Nigeria, and Adenike Ajayi , Head, Retail Business, Smile Nigeria, during an MoU signing ceremony between both organisations in Lagos. recently

Smile, a 4G LTE broadband telecommunications service provider, has collaborated with Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services Limited (IFIS)to make Smile ’s products and services easily accessible via Quickteller Paypointagent locations spread across Nigeria.

This unique collaboration provides ease and flexibility of payment for everyone to have access to the SuperFast, quality, reliable and affordable internet and voice services from Smile, the network of choice.

According to its GM Sales and Distribution, Onamari Horsfall, Smile is happy to sign this collaboration to expand its retail footprint across Nigeria, which has a combination of making Smile’s products and services easily available and addressing customer’s travel time to purchase a device or airtime. He added that the collaboration offers thousands of Smile’s customers’ another means of making purchases.

The Divisional Chief Executive Officer of IFIS, Titilola Shogaolu, stated, “At Interswitch Financial Inclusion Service, we are not only committed to reducing the financial exclusion gap, we are continuously working to provide convenient services and this latest collaboration is just one of the many ways through which we are achieving this.”

Viewed critically, this latest collaboration with IFIS further underscores Smile’s unending quest to best serve its customers.

Smile launched the first 4G LTE network in West Africa in Nigeria in 2014 revolutionizing the way people access the internet. Customers in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Benin City, Kaduna, Onitsha and Asaba, can experience the country’s most reliable, SuperFast 4G LTE mobile broadband services, and also enjoy SuperClear voice calls, video calls and SMSs from their one SmileData bundle. Please visit smile.com.ng for more information.

Smile was the first to launch VoLTE on its network and has continued with its innovation, having introduced SmileVoice, which is a free mobile app that enables customers with any Android or Apple handset, including those which are not VoLTE-enabled, to make supper clear voice calls over Smile’s 4G LTE networks.

Interswitch Financial Inclusion Services Limited, trading as Quickteller Paypoint, has been positioned by Interswitch Group to serve as the interconnect point and infrastructure for integrating and delivering financial, non-financial, retail and social services to the unbanked, under-banked and banked.

IFIS collaborates with financial service providers, merchants, billers and other organisations that aim to increase their efficiency and outreach through our network of human service interfaces nationwide.

The collaboration, which is expected to create over 18,000 Quickteller Paypoint agent locations across Nigeria, will position IFIS to work assiduously to remove the barriers to financial inclusion while creating wealth for its paramount stakeholder- the agent. Using simple innovative technology, persons can pay their bill, transfer money, receive money, buy airtime recharge and open a bank account at our Quickteller Paypoint agent location nationwide, Shogaolu said.

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