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GSMA Hails Groundbreaking Spectrum Decisions @ WRC-23

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The World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) concluded this week with groundbreaking spectrum decisions that will shape the future of mobile communications.

Governments agreed on new mobile low-band spectrum (below 1 GHz) and mid-band spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 6 GHz ranges. The GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, welcomed these outcomes that will allow the mobile sector to plan the next wave of communications development through 5G-Advanced and beyond.

World Radiocommunication Conferences are held every four years under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialised United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. These treaty conferences have the power to change international agreements on the use of radio spectrum.

For mobile, referred to at the ITU as International Mobile Technologies (IMT), WRCs serve an essential role in harmonising spectrum. Harmonsiation ensures economies of scale and facilitates planning for new spectrum bands to address data growth and deliver a bright future of sustainable connectivity.

“WRC-23 has provided a clear roadmap for mobile services to continue to evolve and expand for the benefit of billions across the globe,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA.

“The GSMA believes that no-one should be left behind in the digital age and the decisions of WRC-23 will allow us to deliver a brighter future where mobile brings communities together, delivers industrial agility and provides economic growth. Implementation of the WRC-23 decisions will support global digital ambitions, deliver greater digital equality and unlock the full power of connectivity.”

WRC-23 took strong action to meet mobile data growth by identifying additional mid-band spectrum for mobile. Final harmonisation of the 3.5 GHz band (3.3-3.8 GHz) – the pioneer 5G band – was achieved across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) as well as throughout the Americas. Notably, a new band – the 6 GHz band (6.425-7.125 GHz) – was identified for mobile in every ITU Region – EMEA, the Americas and the Asia Pacific.

Countries representing more than 60% of the world’s population asked to be included in the identification of this band for licensed mobile at WRC-23. The 6 GHz spectrum is now the harmonised home for the expansion of mobile capacity for 5G-Advanced and beyond.

WRC-23 also set out a path towards greater digital equality by defining mobile use of more low-band spectrum in the 470-694 MHz band in EMEA. Low bands can help expand capacity for the internet connectivity of rural communities as their signals reach over wide areas.

WRC-23’s new low-band mobile allocations will be an important tool to break down the barriers towards digital equality in the EMEA region and lower the urban/rural connectivity divide.

“Over half the world is connected to the mobile internet today,” said Luciana Camargos, Head of Spectrum at the GSMA. “But, as mobile connectivity develops, we need to ensure that we can deliver services for everyone. The great legacy of WRC-23 will be in allowing us to do so sustainably, affordably and in a way that delivers for the whole planet.

“We cannot stop here – WRC-23 is only the starting gun and now governments will need to act on its decisions, enabling new mobile technologies that embrace sustainability and unleashing the full potential of mobile to deliver a better tomorrow for our planet.”

The UAE, and its telecoms regulator TDRA, were recognised by delegates for hosting an unforgettable WRC, ensuring that ITU member states had the facilities needed to engage in the long and complex negotiations.

As a result of their leadership in chairing the conference, WRC-23 will be remembered for its balanced yet bold decisions that will deliver digital evolution and connect the world.

Mobile spectrum discussions at WRC-23 focussed on three core ranges:

  • Low-band spectrum is ideal for covering wide areas with lower population density. This makes it an important natural resource that can deliver digital equality. The GSMA believes access to connectivity should not be dependent on where a person lives and progress on low-band spectrum will help ensure that digital equality is achieved between urban and rural areas. In low and middle-income countries, adults are 29% less likely to use the mobile internet if they live in a rural area compared to their urban counterparts. Increasing low-band capacity can help support better rural networks.
  • City-wide capacity requires mid-band spectrum to deliver the main weight of connectivity requirements. The 3.5 GHz range is the birthplace of 5G and is assigned in over 80 countries already. The further harmonisation of the 3.5 GHz range at WRC-23 will allow more countries to take advantage of economies of scale in the mobile ecosystem and benefit from higher speeds provided by wide spectrum channels in this range.
  • On average, 2 GHz of mid-spectrum spectrum per market will be needed by 2030 to meet the demand of citizens and businesses in cities around the globe. The 6 GHz band is the only remaining mid-band spectrum currently available to respond to the data traffic growth in the 5G-Advanced era. The WRC-23 decision to harmonise the 6 GHz band in every ITU Region is a pivotal milestone, bringing a population of billions of people into a harmonised 6 GHz mobile footprint. It also serves as a critical developmental trigger for manufacturers of the 6 GHz equipment ecosystem.

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Stakeholders @PIAFo Identify Obstacles to FG’s 90,000km Fibre Project

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Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry have said the Federal Government’s plan to deploy 90,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables across the country will face several obstacles, especially from state governments, that might truncate the project.  

L—R: Executive Director, Broadbased Communications Limited, Chidi Ibisi; National Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo; Chief Operating Officer, WTES Projects Limited, Chidi Ajuzie; Chief Executive Officer, Skymax Integrated Networks Limited, Engr. Chidi Charles Agukwe; Deputy Director, Policy, Competition and Economic Analyses, Nigerian Communications Commission, Mrs. Freda Bruce-Bennett; the Convener of Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFo), Mr. Omobayo Azeez; Lucky Anumaka, Manager, Managed Services and Operations, Zora Communications Limited; Co-founder/Executive Director, Infratel Africa, Dr. Tola Yusuf; and the Chief Executive Officer, Open Access Data Centre, Dr. Atotunde Coker at the sixth edition of PIAFo on Digital Economy held on Wednesday in Lagos.

According to them, without addressing the current issue of Right of Way charges, multiple taxation, and levies, which are under the control of state governments, the project which is to be implemented through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would be an exercise in futility.  

The stakeholders, who spoke during the Sixth Edition of the Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFO) in Lagos on Wednesday, which was a focus on Nigeria’s renewed strategic agenda for digital economy.

They stressed the need to ensure the successful implementation of the project which was announced recently by the Federal Government to complement existing connectivity for universal access to the internet across Nigeria and provide the Nigerian digital economy with the backbone infrastructure it needed.

Addressing the obstacles 

Presenting a paper on the topic, ‘Harmonizing Nigeria’s Fibre Deployment Strategies for Effective Implementation’, Executive Director of Broadbased Communications, Mr. Chidi Ibisi, said while the government’s SPV initiative is a good plan that could help the country bridge its current digital infrastructure gap, the government would need to address current challenges.  

“The issues of high cost of Right of Way (RoW), destruction of fiber by road construction companies and vandals all need to be addressed for this new SPV initiative to be successful,” he said.  

Highlighting some of the challenges telecom operators face when deploying infrastructure, the Group Chief Operating Officer of WTES Projects Limited, Mr. Chidi Ajuzie, said the biggest challenge to fibre cable laying in Nigeria is the informal RoW by hoodlums in states.  

“For states, a formal right of way is set and some states are adopting it but the informal side of the right of way is where the complexity has come today.  

“If I’m trying to lay fibre in some communities here in Lagos, the first thing that happens is the so-called land owners (omo onile) come out and a different set of people will keep coming from one street to another and they charge you. How do we achieve adequate broadband infrastructure in this kind of situation?” he said.  

Role of state governments 

According to the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, for the 90,000 kilometres fibre project to succeed, the state governments have to take ownership. 

“For the project to succeed, I think the governments at sub-nationals should take ownership. This issue of state governments seeing right of way as IGR should be a thing of the past. We can’t talk about the digital economy on one side and the government is seeing those who provide the services as sources of revenue.  

“The government has always come up with good policies, but the implantation, particularly when they are tested far afield, is the biggest problem. Governors will go to Abuja and say ‘in my state, I will give the right of way free of charge.’  

“When you go to such a state, they may give you the right of way for zero or one Naira, but they will give you developmental levy, education levy, state impact levy, ecosystem levy. When you add all of these together, it is more than the right of way charges. So, who is playing who?” he said.

Making vital contributions at the forum, Dr. Ayotunde Coker, the Chief Executive Officer of Open Access Data Centre (OADC) stressed the need for the fibre project to be executed by the private sector even as the World Bank is expected to fund it with up to $3 billion.

He said: “the World Bank can put money into the government but it needs private sector partnerships as the execution engine and that’s what we’ve been pushing in Africa.

“The key thing is that when the World Bank puts the money in, it should engage the private sector, figure out the policies that it needs to do and enable the private sector to execute them effectively and make it as open as possible. With that, they can achieve what they are trying to achieve.”

He further stressed that for the success of the project, Nigeria should learn lessons of what didn’t work in the past, to achieve the new broadband penetration targets with the fibre range that is required.

“Meaningful broadband is what we need, rather than just a huge set of megabits per second implementation. We need superhighway fibres. We need the distribution of these backbone that allows us then to fan out.”

He further urged state governors to be part of the project by providing an enabling environment for infrastructure roll-out, adding: “if you are a state governor and didn’t participate in it, the state won’t grow and it’s going to impact your state.”

Earlier in his opening address, the convener of PIAFo, Mr. Omobayo Azeez, said the conference was to create a midpoint dialogue platform for digital economy stakeholders across both the public and private divides to brainstorm, exchange perspectives, clear grey areas, harmonize thoughts and create a sense of collective responsibility towards accelerating our collective prosperity through technical efficiency. 

The event focused on Nigeria’s renewed strategic agenda for digital economy. According to him, the new digital economy blueprint of the federal government does not only sustain existing policy directions and targets, “it also challenges us on the possibilities of attaining new frontiers with a view to “Accelerating Our Collective Prosperity through Technical Efficiency” which is the theme of the summit.


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Airtel Launches Smart Router, Offering Smart TV Experience on Regular TVs

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Telecommunications service provider, Airtel Nigeria, has launched a new device called Airtel Smart Router, a 4G router capable of connecting up to 10 devices, with the additional benefit of offering a smart TV experience on a regular television set.

The Airtel Smart Router is programmed to leverage both wireless and ethernet connections to provide users with a smart TV experience directly through their television screens.

With embedded applications, users can effortlessly access popular entertainment streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Showmax, dramatically elevating their viewing experience with personalized, immersive, and current content.

Commenting on the launch, Femi Oshinlaja, Chief Commercial Officer, Airtel Nigeria, said the new Smart Router represents a major leap forward in how people experience entertainment at home.

“With the Airtel smart routers, we can now deliver affordable and superior entertainment content from multiple streaming services to the home of many Nigerians without a non-smart TV set. By integrating advanced connectivity and a user-friendly interface, we are offering our customers the ability to unlock a world of digital content directly on their TVs,” he said.

This cutting-edge device will advance home entertainment technology, offering seamless connectivity and access to a wide range of digital content.

In addition to the smart TV advantage, the Smart Router, which is SIM-based and 4G capable, can connect up to 10 other devices concurrently, allowing a mix of entertainment, security, work, or leisure devices all on the same internet subscription.

“Users can connect smart cams, smart doorbells, tablets, smartphones, laptops, and TV at the same time,” Oshinlaja noted.

 


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FG Lauds Moniepoint’s Contributions to the Growth of the Informal Economy

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Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Kashim Shettima, has restated the government’s unvarnished commitment to deepening economic and financial inclusion in line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, noting that financial inclusion is a core component and the government is making a lot of efforts to ensure that the vulnerable in society have safety nets as exemplified by the ASO accord which was signed this year.

L – R Managing Director, Moniepoint Microfinance Bank, Babatunde Olofin; Honorable Minister, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Doris Uzoka-Anite, and Director General, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, Charles Odii, at the launch of the Moniepoint Informal Economy Report 2024 in Abuja recently.

He made these comments over the weekend at the Abuja Continental Hotel in Abuja while speaking as principal guest of honour at the launch of the 2024 Nigeria Informal Economy Report powered by Moniepoint in collaboration with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN and the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment.

The Nigeria’s Informal Economy Report offers fresh insights for individuals and organizations interested in understanding the dynamics of Nigeria’s informal economy and shaping a more inclusive and sustainable economic landscape. Some of the key insights from the report include:

  • The youthful demographic is a critical driving force of Nigeria’s informal economy, with over 57.7% of business owners under 34 years old

  • There is an untapped earning potential that is prevalent in the informal segment, with the average monthly income below ₦250,000 while on the higher end of the spectrum, only about 1.3% of businesses in Nigeria’s informal economy earn above N2.5 million monthly

  • Retail and General Trade is the leading industry within the informal economy, making up 24% of all informal businesses

  • The reality that unemployment is the primary driver for starting a business by many players in the informal sector

Sen Shettima, represented by the Technical Adviser to the President on Economic & Financial Inclusion, Dr. Nurudeen Abubakar Zauro, acknowledged and appreciated the role of players in the informal space, especially Moniepoint. “We can all remember during the Covid-19 lockdown and the recent currency changes, there were a lot of challenges and we saw agencies like this come together and save the country at that point. This is because of the flexible initiatives they brought into the space, especially last-mile delivery by providing a platform that allowed people to successfully transact. SMEDAN’s innovative streak has also been very commendable, he said.

In his opening remarks, Managing Director, Moniepoint Microfinance Bank, Babatunde Olofin, praised operators of informal businesses for the high degree of flexibility and innovation they exhibit in adapting quickly to changing market conditions. Highlighting their economic significance, he said that the informal economy contributes substantially to Nigeria’s GDP and can be effectively mobilized to unleash Nigeria’s full economic potential and provide much needed support to the most vulnerable households in our society.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, who formally launched the report, reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to supporting small business operators in the informal sector of the economy. She pointed out that the informal sector, which often appears to be forgotten, would henceforth begin to enjoy government’s interventions and incentives.

She said: “We are really grateful to Moniepoint for conducting this report. It gives us the basis and foundation now to provide targeted intervention as part of the government’s approach to supporting the informal economy. This segment plays a significant role in the Nigerian economy, we can now bring them up to enjoy incentives that the government is providing to the broader economy as well.

Also delivering a goodwill message, the Chairman, House Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Hon. Mansur Manu Soro, said the House was taking deliberate steps to prioritize women operating in the informal sector and end gender disparity in earnings. He expressed the National Assembly’s commitment to give the report its full attention, subjecting it to the necessary review and internalizing it while lauding Moniepoint for its positive impact in pushing financial inclusion.

“I want to congratulate Moniepoint for achieving such a national penetration as far as the banking industry is concerned within a very short period of time. The story of Moniepoint is the story of how technology can propel a business to unprecedented levels within a short time span. Reports like this one which we’d be releasing today remain a critical tool used in planning by the government and private sector and we in the House of Reps will be internalizing it legislatively.”

Chief Executive Officer, Moniepoint Inc, Tosin Eniolorunda in his foreword provided the rationale for the report, “In just a few years, over 2 million businesses, many within the informal economy, have chosen Moniepoint as their essential growth partner. The commitment we feel to this sector inspired the creation of this report. By quantifying the informal economy’s impacts and nuances, we can better shape policies and programs to empower and uplift the entrepreneurs driving it forward. Their success is inextricably linked to Nigeria’s continued growth and development.”

In a keynote presentation, Director General/CEO SMEDAN, Charles Odii, said that small businesses are the engine of the Nigerian economy and most of Nigeria’s approximately 40 million small businesses reside in the informal sector. He noted that these businesses which are born of both necessity and entrepreneurial zeal, exemplify the famous Nigerian ‘hustling’ while affirming that the agency is working to formalize these businesses and bring them into the formal sector to increase access to important resources such as finance.

“Ensuring their survival and catalyzing their growth is crucial for poverty elimination, rural industrialization, and the enhancement of livelihoods, all three core mandates of SMEDAN. Their formalization will aid the development of brand value and financial history, which indicates creditworthiness and attracts investment.”

Furthermore, Odii articulated SMEDAN’s agenda aimed at accelerating growth and prosperity for small businesses as encapsulated in the acronym ‘GROW’: Guidance, Resources, Opportunities, and Workforce support. According to him, the agency’s focus spans seven priority sectors including agriculture (EAT Nigeria), manufacturing (PRODUCE Nigeria), tourism (VISIT Nigeria), fashion (WEAR Nigeria), creative industries (WATCH AND LISTEN Nigeria), education (TEACH Nigeria), and services (PATRONISE Nigeria). This agenda focuses on expanding local production capacities, improving market access both domestically and internationally, and creating an enabling environment for over 40 million small businesses, collectively providing more than 60 million jobs.

The event featured a panel session which was moderated by Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Moniepoint Inc, Didi Uwemakpan with the theme: Building an inclusive and sustainable informal economy for Nigeria: Hopes and Impediments. The panelists which included Special Adviser to the President on Economic Affairs, Dr. Tope Fasua; Head, Financial Inclusion Delivery Unit, Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Paul Oluikpe; DG, SMEDAN; Founder, She Forum Africa, Inimfon Etuk and MD, Moniepoint Microfinance Bank were unanimous and strident in the call for continued collaboration and concerted efforts to support and elevate Nigeria’s vibrant informal economy towards sustainable growth and development.

Some of the dignitaries who attended the event include Senior Special Assistant to the President on Entrepreneurship in Innovation & Digital Economy, Engr Jennifer Adighije; National President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Barr. Dele Kelvin Oye; MD/CEO, Abuja Enterprise Agency, Mr. Chudi Ugwuada-Ezirigwe; Registrar General/CEO, Corporate Affairs Commission, Hussaini Ishaq Magaji, SAN, among others.


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