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FEATURES, ICT

Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Wednesday signed an MOU that will facilitate the release of contiguous bandwidth in one of the most suitable Frequency Spectrum band(s) for early deployment of fifth Generation Network (5G) services in Nigeria.

 

Speaking at the ceremony the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. U. G. Danbatta commended the move by the two agencies.

 

According to him, amongst the Frequency Spectrum bands allocated to 5G by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the C-band (3.4GHz – 3.9GHz) stands out because its balancing point between coverage and capacity provides the perfect environment for 5G connectivity.

 

“The C-band is most suitable and appropriate for immediate deployment of 5G services taking into consideration availability of device ecosystem with 60-70% of global commercial 5G network deployment currently in the band, thus the importance of this Spectrum for early deployment of 5G services in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized” he said.

 

On the reason behind the MOU, he explained that “For optimal 5G service performance, an average of contiguous 100 MHz of spectrum in the C-band is required by an Operator. However in Nigeria, only 120 MHz of the band (3.4 – 3.52) GHz is available for mobile services while the remaining 680 MHz (3.52 – 4.2) GHz of the band is used by NigComSat (NG-1R) satellites.”

 

Adding that, “The Commission initiated negotiation with NIGCOMSAT whom in our estimate could make some adjustment to its satellite operation and release part of its Spectrum holding in the band to facilitate the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.”

 

 He commended the Management of the NigComSat under the leadership of Dr. Abimbola Alale for demonstrating that the interest of our dear country is paramount to our organizational or personal interest.

 

The NCC boss noted that “The two agencies have been in discussions on how to relocate the operations of NG-1R to the standard C-band 300MHz (3.9GHz – 4.2GHz) potion of the band, which is more suitable in terms of Satellite service offering because end user terminal are cheaper there, while leaving the non-standard C-band 400MHz (3.5GHz – 3.9GHz) portion of the band for 5G use. The cost of relocating the NG-1R is expected to be offset from the proceeds of the auction of the 5G Spectrum.”

 

On his part Chairman Board of Commissioners, Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Adeolu Akande highlighted the enormous benefits of the 5G network.

 

According to him, “Telecommunication evolution from inception to date has led to improvement in user experience witnessed from 2G, 3G and later 4G. The global impact of 4G brought about increases in mobile usage and network performance. 5G will build on this momentum, bringing substantial network improvements, including higher connection speeds, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities. In doing so, it enables new use cases and applications that will positively impact different sectors and improve efforts towards achieving Digital Economies. It does not only offer enhanced broadband and ultra-low, ultra-reliable latency communications but also provide massive machine type communications, where a lot of devices will seamlessly connect and independently interact with the internet without human intervention. Thus, enabling several Smart City initiatives.”

 

Prof. Adeolu added that “Spectrum plays a critical role in realising the full extent of
these new capabilities. Thus, 5G’s full socio-economic impact is dependent on access to a variety of spectrum resources. These Spectrum will play a key role in meeting the demand for many enhanced mobile data services as well as new wireless broadband use cases such as remote object manipulation, industrial automation, virtual and augmented reality and next-generation connectivity for vehicles. These use cases will continue to increase the impact that mobile services have on societies and economies.”

 

“In China, UAE, Europe, Africa, India, Brazil and Australia, the 3.5GHz band glaringly featured amongst the spectrum that has been prioritized for 5G with prospects for early deployment.”

 

He concluded that, “the Management of NigComSat and NCC have taken a bold step in the right direction to release contagious quantum of Spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for early deployment of 5G. This type of collaboration seeks to ensure synergy amongst agencies under the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy.”

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ICT

The Nigerian Communications Commission has published a research report on the ethical and societal impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As a way of enlightening the public, the paper, sponsored by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), looked at AI, its impact on society and the ethical considerations concerning its wide deployment.

According the report published on the Commission’s website the technology comes with its merits and demerits.

 “It is apparent from this Research study that the transformative effect of AI on countries can have far-reaching economical, legal and regulatory implications that reinforce the fact that there are always unexpected and unwanted consequences when new technology is introduced. This technology also comes as a double edged sword, with rising concerns over its harmful effects and ethical implications such as security concerns, lack of standardizations and accountability, and bias.”

The report calls for human adjustments, “Human intelligence influences AI and iteratively, in the near future, AI will improve human intelligence by reeducation of humanity to understand the technology’s mechanisms and consequences. In order to accomplish that, there has to be a shift in human ability to interact with AI in sustainable terms to yield positive impact. Coupled with thorough ethical examination of AI systems to ensure moral codes, privacy, fairness and safety, the use of AI systems will revolutionize many industries in the future and might change the future as we know it.”

“It is important to note that AI is constantly changing, hence, the legal and regulatory environment is also ever- evolving. This means that policy and regulation concerning AI should embody an iterative system, involving all crucial stakeholders. The future of AI will ultimately be set by the ability of the world to strike a balance between reaping its benefits and addressing its fallouts; and this balance is dependent on adaptable regulatory structures that can ensure the prosperity of the Industry.”

It recommended that regulators have an obligation to brave new regulatory frontiers to drive the benefits unleashed by new and emerging technology.

It advised that in order for the Nigerian Communications Commissions to drive for a safe and enabling environment for the deployment of AI systems to maximize its potentials while curtailing its negative effects, the following recommendations are emphasized:

“With the increasing emergence of AI enabled technology, there has to be a set of requirements to ensure only authorized businesses/ service providers would offer AI enabled services to the public. This would not only ensure the safety and security of customer data, but also serve as a monitoring mechanism to make sure only ethically and legally compliant AI systems are deployed, whilst limiting third-party use of the technology. The Commission can achieve this via the Licensing Department, by formulating a new class of license to be made available for AI providers. Ideally, licenses would provide an avenue for regulatory examinations which would force the providers to guarantee security compliance and eliminate errors, bias.”

“The Commission should drive collaboration toward informed and effecting regulation with relevant stakeholders such as Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, NOTAP and NITDA. Constant collaboration would establish information sharing and boost stakeholder involvement.”

“Considering the plans to establish an Agency for robotics and AI (RAI), the Commission can establish a partnership to confer and deliberate on the regulatory needs for a RAI license for AI in the future.”

“In order to keep up with the continuous challenges and solutions concerning AI in terms of societal and ethical impact, the Commission should study and localize international best practices by other Nations to enforce global standardization.”

“The Commission should consistently engage with the ITU on AI standardization efforts for replication at the National level.”

“The Commission can render support and collaboration to center for Robotics and AI upon its launch, in order to carry out a holistic 31 needs and challenges review, as well as the creation of a White paper on Robotics and AI for Nigeria.”

“Collaborate and partner with Academia and Research Institutions to drive constant and intensive research in the field of Emerging Technologies such as AI. This partnership would also foster sensitization and educational reform of Nigerian school curriculums to include ICT and digital skills for retool and reskill of Nigerians for this new era of emerging technology.”

“The ITU regulatory Tracker76 was launched by the organization to aid Regulators analyze the ICT sector for their regulatory environments. NCC can use this tool, via the Research Department to identify, monitor and resolve gaps in existing regulations in the area of Emerging Technology.”

“The Commission should drive Public- Private Partnerships (PPP) via a roundtable with captains of the ICT Industry in the field of Emerging Technologies to encapsulate information sharing and foster inclusive collaboration in policy formulation.”

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ICT, M-I-NA AMBASSADOR
Airtel Africa plc, a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services, with a presence in Nigeria and 13 other countries across Africa, announces Olusegun “Segun Ogunsanya, Managing Director and CEO Nigeria is to succeed Raghunath “Raghu” Mandava, as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer following Raghu Mandava’s informing the Board of his intention to retire. Segun Ogunsanya will join the Board of Airtel Africa plc with effect from 1 October2021.

Segun Ogunsanya joined Airtel Africa in 2012 as Managing Director and CEO Nigeria and has been responsible for the overall management of our operations in Nigeria, our largest market in Africa. Segun has more than 25 years’ business management experience in banking, consumer goods and telecoms. Before joining Airtel in 2012, Segun held leadership roles at Coca-Cola in Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya (as MD and CEO). He has also been the Managing Director of Nigerian Bottling Company Ltd (Coca-Cola Hellenic owned) and Group head of retail banking operations at Ecobank Transnational Inc, covering 28 countries in Africa. He is an electronics engineer and also a chartered accountant.

Raghu Mandava will be retiring as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, as a Director of Airtel Africa plc and as a member of the Market Disclosure Committee on 30 September 2021. Arrangements have been made to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities. Following his cessation of employment at Airtel Africa, Mr. Mandava will be available to advise the Chairman, the Airtel Africa Board and the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for a 9-month period.

Appointment of Managing Director and CEO Nigeria

An announcement naming Segun Ogunsanya’s successor as Managing Director and CEO Nigeria will be made soon.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman said: “We are delighted to appoint Segun Ogunsanya as the Group’s next Chief Executive Officer. He has displayed significant drive and energy in turning around the Nigeria business by focusing on network modernisation, distribution, and operational efficiency. It is this commitment, together with his industry experience, strategic vision, constant customer focus and proven record of delivery that will enable him to continue to deliver our strategic objectives and to lead the Group in the next stages of its development.”

On behalf of the Board I would like to thank Raghu Mandava for being instrumental in successfully leading and transforming Airtel Africa into a powerhouse telecommunications and mobile money company. Throughout that time, Raghu has worked tirelessly first to repair and then to strengthen Airtel Africa’s business and to champion our stakeholders. As we look forward to Segun assuming his new role in October 2021, we do so from a position of great strength as a result of Raghu’s highly effective stewardship. Raghu will retire from the Board with our very best wishes and sincere appreciation for everything he has achieved.”

Raghu Mandava said: “I am thankful to Airtel Africa for providing me and my team the opportunity to transform the business and fulfil our responsibility to the countries in which we operate. It has been a privilege to serve in the African continent and I cherish my time here. Airtel Africa is a remarkable business with fantastic people. Having been at Bharti Airtel for 13 years and at Airtel Africa for 5 years as Chief Executive Officer, I feel now is the right time to take a sabbatical.

The last five years have been an exhilarating journey where we have been able to turnaround and transform the business into a strong high growth and profitable company.We have been able to build the business with our unique management and problem solving approach to bring in substantial performance improvement. I am very proud of what we have achieved over the past 5 years in Africa, and I look forward to seeing the Company make even greater progress over the coming years.”

Segun Ogunsanya said: “Having been part of the Airtel Africa journey for the past nine years, I am looking forward to taking up the role of Chief Executive Officer. On a personal note, as an African, I feel honoured to have the opportunity to lead a Group that continues to make a difference to millions of people, bridge the digital divide and expand financial inclusion. This is an exciting opportunity to position Airtel Africa for further success in a dynamic continent full of potential. I look forward to building on the achievements of the last five years during Raghu’s leadership.”
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FEATURES, ICT

The need for stakeholders’ collaboration has been highlighted as a major factor in development of digital economy in Nigeria. This was one of the recommendations in a research study carried out by the Emerging Technologies Research Unit of the Research and Development Department for the Nigerian Communications Commission to ascertain the Emerging Role of Data and FinTech in the Development of Digital Economy and the regulatory implications.

According to the research report, NCC needs to drive collaboration toward informed and effecting regulation with relevant stakeholders such as Ministry of Communications & Digital Economy, CBN, NITDA and NOTAP; adding that “constant collaboration would establish information sharing and boost stakeholder involvement.”

Other recommendations highlighted in the report include; “the Commission should consistently engage with the ITU on FinTech standardization efforts for replication at the National level.”

“Collaborate and partner with Academia and Research Institutions and Start-ups to drive constant and intensive research in the field of Emerging Technologies such as FinTech. This partnership would also foster sensitization and educational reform of Nigerian school curriculums to include ICT and digital skills for retool and reskill of Nigerians for this new era of emerging technology.”

“The Commission should encourage investment in local FinTech start-ups.”

“The Commission and CBN should collaborate and organise forum for FinTechs and Banks, on strengthening their digital infrastructure platforms and systems.”

“Financial service players should be encouraged to provide enhanced digital products, as well as personalized services (digitaland non-digital) that could provide significant return on investment.”

“Engage in stakeholder engagement and capacity deployment programmes with SMEs, micro-business, employers, employees, trade groups, among other stakeholders, to enlighten them on the benefits of utilizing digital platforms as a channel for financial transactions and commerce, and as a bridge builder for a digitalised Nigeria”.

The research underlined the significant impact of digital revolution and the growth of Fin Tech Start-ups.

It noted that “the impact of the ICT revolution is now evident in virtually all countries, Nigeria, inclusive.” Adding that, “the phenomenal global transition towards a “digital economy” with an estimated worth of $11.5 trillion globally, equivalent to 15.5 percent of global GDP and which has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years, calls for urgent policy measures in Nigeria for the purpose of providing the necessary regulatory framework to support the spread of these new digital technologies and ensuring that greater levels of digitalization of Nigeria’s economy and the society at large, are achieved.“

“The year 2017 witnessed a rise in the total global Start-ups’ funding. Globally, up to 45% of all Start-ups focused on financial inclusion and Fin[1]Tech Start-ups are becoming increasingly attractive. As a result a record $93 million in investment was raised between 2015 and 2017 by Fin-Tech companies globally”, the report said.

The report also commended the effort of President Muhammadu Buhari, for approving the re-designation of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMoCDE) on the 17th of October, 2019, among the priorities by the Federal Government for a digitised Nigeria.

It added that “Along with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy document 2020-2030, the Federal Government launched an E-Government Plan 2020 with the mission to improve digital operations and services across MDAs in Nigeria. Some key Government digitisation initiatives include the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform, and the active role of the development of a Digital Identity Ecosystem by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). Others include the Nigerian National Policy for Information Technology (IT), 2000; The Nigeria Vision 20:20 Policy; the National Broadband Plan 2013 – 2018, National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025; the InfraCo Licence and project, amongst others.”

The report highlighted key challenges facing Fin-Tech startups in Nigeria.

“Today in Nigeria, it is estimated that there are about 210-250 FinTech operators/companies operating in the Nigerian space, and these players brought about the valuation of the industry to $153.1 million in 2017 and are projected to rise up to $543.3 million by 2022.”

“Despite these impressive statistics, Fin-Tech Start-ups in Nigeria still face significant number of problems to their uptake, use and acceptability in Nigeria such as: Bridging existing gap between Fin-Tech firms and traditional banking systems;  The Regulatory Environment Remains Challenging’ Collaboration, Partnerships & Funding;  Access to Financial Infrastructure; Winning Customer Trust and Access to Talent.”

“These problems pose significant challenges to the data collection and analysis and act as a hindrance to the growth of Digital Economy in Nigeria, and the achievement of the Digital Economy Policy and Strategy of the Nigerian Government.”

“Furthermore, in Nigeria various Agencies of Government and even large Corporations collect data on Nigerians. The lack of cohesion amongst these data generating and storing Organizations also impact the rollout of a digital Nigeria. Some of these data collecting offices include various Agencies of Government and also private entities managing Nigerian data, a critical analysis of its impact on the proposed Digital Economy is needed.”

“Some of them include the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigerian Customs, Government hospitals, Telecoms services providers, private Banks, the Nigerian Identity Management Agency, private hospitals, Insurance companies, the Directorate of Road Traffic Services, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NOTAP, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the National Population Commission, the National Bureau of Statistics, the Electricity Distribution Companies, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Federal Ministry of Education and all its Agencies, data collecting bodies in all State and Local Governments of Nigeria, large supermarket chains.”

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ICT

The Executive Vice Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commision, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has called on the need for collaboration between government and key stakeholders to achieve broadband set target of 70%.

The EVC made a presentation titled “Aggregating the Potential of the Sub-Sector to Meet the New Broadband Set Target Of 70%”, at the Virtual Structured Engagement with Key Stakeholders in the Nigerian Telecom & IT sector on the New Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 organised by the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

According to the NCC boss who was represented by the Director, Digital Economy, Dr. Austine Nwaulune, “Both Government, the industry and other stakeholders need to aggregate their potentials and expertise to achieve these targets.”

He highlighted some of the targets of the NNBP 2020-2025 to include; “achieving 15Mbps & 25Mbps internet speed in rural and urban areas respectively by 2025, interconnection of 90% of all LGA’s by fibre, 70% Population penetration, 100% of Tertiary Institutions to be within 5Km of a fibre PoA, 60% of all telecom towers to be connected by fibre, connection of 1 major hospital or General hospital per LGA via fibre, reduction of average cost of data to N390/Gb or less and establishment of at least one (1) local assembly or manufacture of smart devices, reduction of RoW to N145/m etc.”

The EVC said “The Commission has already commenced some of this consolidation with the directive issued to Infraco licensees to commence immediate roll-out of optic fibre cables (OFC) as contained in their license agreements to all the LGA headquarters by giving them freehand to start from viable areas and gradually move to unviable areas while the expected counter-part funding from Government is being finalized.”

He noted that “An equally important consolidation in the area of spectrum availability is the Commission’s finalization of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines as well as our collaboration with NigComSat that will make available 400MHz of prime spectrum for Next Generation Network deployment in the near future.”

And that “Collaboration with State Governments has also seen the adoption of the N145/m or outright waiver Right-of-Way (RoW) by six (6) State Governments, although, here we must mention that more needs to be done by the States and Local Governments to ensure full adoption and cascading of the decision for implementation. This notwithstanding, the Commission will not relent in its effort towards addressing the issue RoW.”

Adding that the Commission’s regulatory thrust towards enabling National Roaming, approval of e-SIM and 5G trials have also aggregated the efforts of the industry players towards achieving the set target.

He concluded that “although, there has been a 3% decline in the broadband penetration from a peak of 45.93% in October 2020 to 42.93% in January 2021, which was largely as a result of the suspension of registration of new SIM cards in December to facilitate smooth linkage and synchronization of the SIM-NIN databases that will not only address some of the security challenges we are facing today but it will help us determine the truly unique numbers in the Country thus further guiding us towards achieving the 70% penetration target.”

“The NNBP 2020-2025 has raised the performance bar for the whole telecom industry, however being a document crafted by experts and executives, there is no reason why it cannot be achieved to put Nigeria in a firm pedestal of nations with broadband access. I wish to assure you that the Commission shall continue to proactively provide the necessary regulatory interventions which will facilitate the achievement of not only the 70% broadband penetration target but other associated targets as well which will truly transform our economy into a Digital Economy” he said.       

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