Towercos pledges commitment to low-cost 5G deployment
Tower infrastructure companies (Towercos) have expressed readiness to help mobile network operators (MNOs) free up some required expenses to ensure the fifth-generation (5G) technology is delivered to Nigerians at a lower cost.

Though they noted that the expansion of telecommunications services in Nigeria is currently faced with about a $136 billion infrastructure gap, they stressed that if industry collaboration is achieved, more development could be attracted to the sector.

Speaking at the second edition of Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PAIFo), organised by BusinessMetrics Nigeria, to discuss national policy on 5G and themed ‘Ascertaining Full Readiness to make 5G Work in Nigeria’, the operators said the industry must rally ahead of 5G roll out.

Towercos and other stakeholders, including government, regulators and operators, submitted that ahead of the new phase of telecoms revolution, envisaged to come from deployment of 5G more infrastructure must be developed.

Speaking on ‘Bridging Telecoms Infrastructure Gaps for 5G: The Imperatives’, Brand Manager, Pan African Towers, Okim-Alobi Oyama, said 5G needs five times the current number of street furniture sites in dense urban areas and twice the power consumption for each of the sites due to higher computing.

Oyama said 5G also needs edge computing, mandatory fibre connection, massive MiMo antennas and key policy implementation to drive the network.

To get this done, he suggested that the gap in the telecoms sector should be treated as critical network infrastructure.

Backing his case with statistics, the Pan African Tower chief noted that there are over 195.4 million mobile subscribers in Nigeria while mobile GSM contributes about 99.75 per cent to the total market share with over 141.9 million Internet subscribers.

According to him, broadband penetration was about 40.88 per cent as at December 2021 whereas telecoms contributed 12.45 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP as at Q3 2021

Oyama said these ride on about 32,470 towers infrastructure currently existing in Nigeria, stressing that “there is a network infrastructure gap currently capped at over $136 billion, approximately an additional 40,000 towers to be built to close this infrastructure gap.”

He said that Nigeria has developed a National Broadband Plan (NBP), which aims to achieve broadband penetration of about 70 per cent by 2025 and network coverage to about 90 per cent of the population of the country in 2025 and that the country is also on a mission to transform its economy into a digital economy and needs 5G to achieve this in totality, “but how can Nigeria implement its NBP and achieve its digital economy status if its Critical Network Infrastructure assets are continually vandalised and stolen?”

Like Oyama, Director, IHS Holding Limited, Segun Akintemi, said for 5G to succeed in Nigeria, the necessary infrastructure needs to be in place. He said infrastructure deployment usually precedes new technology deployment and is highly CAPEX intensive, adding that 5G comes with its unique infrastructure requirements.

He said that towercos will help the MNOs to release capital, stressing that leasing infrastructure from Towercos releases capital for MNOs and frees up investment needed for 5G and other services.

He stated that towercos also facilitate market entry of new operators by presenting them with various lower cost options, as well as help manage the environment via co-location.

According to him, “co-location means fewer towers are needed to meet the network and enhanced connectivity demands.”

Akintemi further noted that 5G has put new demands on towercos as a major stakeholder to bridge the infrastructure gap for the new technology.

He anticipated that 5G demands from towercos will include two to four times the current the number of sites (micro and street furniture); twice to thrice the power consumption of current sites; required fibre connectivity for scalability; and space to accommodate massive multiple-in multiple-out (MiMo) Antennas.

“Other fresh demands to meet Nigeria’s 5G target are high reliability and availability/uptime towards 99.999 per cent, that is, downtime of 24 seconds per month; new competence and skilled resources and data centres for edge computing.

“In terms of bridging the infrastructure gap, the above considerations are at the forefront for IHS Nigeria. They require significant investment, regulatory support and customer collaboration,” Akintemi said.