Aderemi Adeyeye is the president/chairman, Enext Wireless, Inc. Aderemi worked for Alcatel-Lucent for 20 years in various areas, starting with training service provider engineers in wireless network deployment. He has been engaged in LTE work since 2008. He participated in the first LTE trial by Alcatel-Lucent in North America.(2008 – 2010) and was the Lead RF Alcatel-Lucent RF engineer in support of the first LTE deployment by Verizon Wireless in the Washington-Baltimore market in the United States (2010) and Alcatel-Lucent Subject Matter Expert in support of AT&T LTE deployment in the New York City / New Jersey market, which is one of the most challenging markets for RF deployment.
He has over 40 years experience in telecommunications, including a design of financial data transmission network using the vertical blanking interval of the North American Television standard (NTSC) for which he shares a patent with two others. He also performed link layer telecommunication work in support of NASA contract at its Goddard Space Flight Center facilities in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. Aderemi Adeyeye is presently the Chairman of Enextgen Wireless Ltd.
Mr Adeyeye has Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Bsc Math, from the College Park Campus of the University of Maryland. He spoke to peter oluka on ways to address telecoms quality of service (QoS) related issues in Nigeria and other sundry issues.
What is Enextgen Wireless’ Focus?
We have two primary focal points. First, to provide quality LTE network deployment to the public in Nigeria; to help the public receive value for their money, in terms of quality of (network) service. The second objective is to work with the service providers, on where we find issues on their networks; we collect data from their networks to form a report which we publish for public awareness on the quality of service provided to them. On the same data, we assist service providers identify issues on their RF (radio frequency) and provide technical assistance in resolving those issues.
The intention is actually for Nigerians to get value for what they are subscribing to, in terms of broadband connection, especially in the LTE which is the new deployment standard.
Why Poor Quality of Service Persists
There could be many reasons for drop calls or poor quality of service generally. But, the most important requirement to have consistent service is to make sure the radio frequency part is properly deployed; that is, ensuring the signals go in the direction they are designed for, smooth sign off from one cell to the other. FromEnextgen Wireless’ experience there are some levels of deficiency in the deployment of networks by some operators. It appears, deployment in Nigeria is made in such manner that as soon as the service providers finishes building the cell site, they turn it on- making network available to the public.
That is not normally done in other jurisdictions; before you deploy you are supposed to have cluster of sites, collect data using a third party or your network optimization devices, just to be sure that the radio frequency is performing as expected. But that isn’t the experience in Nigeria. Some service providers are better than others. However, it seems a routine for the site to get turned commercial almost as soon as the equipment is installed.
How Long Has Enextgen Wireless Been In The Market And Achievements So Far?
For almost two years, we have operated in this market. Our purpose has always been to help with the LTE deployment, which is the new broadband/communications standard. When we started, it was only Smile Communications that had LTE deployment and it operated with a small spectrum. Though, with a nationwide licence, they covered only a handful of key cities. Then, NTel acquired the resources of formal NITEL. While others typicallyhad the underlining networks- 2G and 3G on top of which they deployed LTE, NTel started out without an underlying network, even though they purchased the assets of the defunct NITEL. They couldn’t capitalise on Nitelassets which were left unattended for years. So, we have been there to assist these companies to avoid some of the pitfalls others have encountered.
How Can Issues Around Poor Quality of (Network) Service Be Addressed?
Basically, both the regulator and the operators need to pay attention to the level of engineering in the deployment of the services. It is like in haulage, you need a good road network before you can start troubling yourself about optimizing the quantity of goodstaken from one area to others.
Jammers and the poor quality of devices should not be that much a concern in LTE networks. The NCC can continue to use sanctions and insistence on using UEs that are certified as meeting 3GPP specifications. Any unauthorized booster issues can be addressed through network monitoring and sanctions.
If cells are built and turned on for commercial subscription without proper optimization, the network will have poor QoS. As such, regulations mandating a minimum level of performance optimization before commercial deployment might help.
Importance of R&D
Yes, research and development (R&D) is somewhat a complex situation because to have a reliable R&D the government has to pay attention to education. That will also spur individual enterprises to do much in that regard. There is also need to pay attention to the engineering studies in our academic institutions; giving the students access to measurement equipment, various network infrastructures and so on. For us as a Company engage in analyses on (network) performance quality. We can analyse as the low in level as the resource grade which is the output element that carries the data for each resource LTE.
We can analyse the spectrum miles: how they deviate from the standard of deployment or otherwise. So, we can do very deep analyses on over-the-air (OTA) signals that providers broadcast. But we are not service providers; all we have access is the over-the-air. We have the resources to work with service providers, especially the core networks, where they are interested in working with us to improve end-to-end performance of their network.
In addition to the OTA RF, we have the resources to help them look at the performance from the User Equipment (UE), all the way from calling to the terminating point. As far as the product is concerned, we use the standard UEs for mobile or smartphone; ones which have been utilised in network deployment in the developed markets. Most times we focus on Samsung products, because the chips allow you to deeper investigation. The advantage in our case is that we produce unquestionable reference to determine the quality of deployment.
Enextgen Wireless’ Observations With regards to QoS in Nigeria
Our observation is that the quality of deployment in Nigeria is very poor. How bad? It varies from a provider to the other. Nevertheless, there is a specific service provider that seems very aggressive in providing quality LTE deployment and akin to deploy services nationwide. Meanwhile, this service provider, in some areas, has some major issues such as connection failure and drops. Overall, their network is very good. If you move from there you quickly find some other smaller service provider whose deployment is so bad; no where in the world, except in this clime would a service provider be allowed to deploy that kind of network to the public. The quality is so bad.
Mitigating Rural-Urban Migration Through Quality 4G LTE Deployment
You are on point. However, the service providers should first show interest. Their permanent interest should go beyond economic. That is where the government comes in, probably, through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF). It is very important to provide additional help to the service providers to cover areas where the profitability might be marginal to non-existent.
On the other hand, the service providers need to partner with smaller companies with special talents to distribute networks beyond the big towers. Such sites are coming up in Kenya where smaller companies are deploying solar-powered solutions to provide coverage in rural areas.
No small company can provide network in huge human density areas without the big network operator providing the backbone. Government needs to encourage such partnerships and innovative service deployment through USPF subsidies.
Actually, it is going to help the system a lot. Those are the kinds of solution-provisioning that government should be paying close attention to. It is not just setting up the structure or management; you need to have people with the required skills, dedicated to this work. And you can’t really blame the NCC, but the situation where operators are ‘dumping’ bad networks here does not show the market in good light. NCC has received a lot of accolades for its regulatory exploits in the market, but service providers getting away with the deployment of poor LTE services should not be condoned in anyway; the operators should engage people with the required skills to deploy the right solutions.
How Quality Are The Equipment (Hardware) Used In Deploying The Networks?
I think in Nigeria, the service providers tend to use the same vendors. So, the quality can’t be the issue as such. Even in the United States, no service provider will depend on a vendor to provide the level of quality they need. They have sophisticated engineers and people who have vested interests in making sure they are getting from the vendors the quality they require. We should encourage such here (in Nigeria).
You can’t say because you have given the contract to Vendor X and because it develops good quality equipment in the United State, therefore, you will get such quality here. It doesn’t follow. Somebody has to monitor the activities of these people. Like any engineering, you do the design yourself, identity the equipment you want to use for deployment, then implement. You cannot just leave every part of the process to a vendor just because they flashed certain certifications before you.
Remember, the vendor is here to make money. Even though they parade high quality products, when they realise that the local people are not interested in challenging them to implement the right solutions, they are likely to pull wool over your eyes. So, as we assess the equipment, we have to make sure the resources (human) are handy to ensure the right processes are followed.
What Has Enextgen Wireless Been Doing Lately and Your Future Plans
Since we started, we have been working on a service we called National Independent Wireless Broadband Quality Reporting (NIWBQR). Based on the data we collated, we prepared the report and share, freely, to the service providers. The report gives them a sense of how their network is performing.
Also, we have a very detailed engineering log we can use to help them resolve the issues, if they are interested. Most of the time, they are not interested. But, we now have an exception and that is the same company I said is visibly trying to expand their network in a quality manner. Others would give excuses like ‘NCC monitors us’ ‘this is not from NCC’. In other words, they are saying there is no incentive on their part to serve the public other than meeting the requirement of somebody supervising them.
To me, any company that serves the public, typically, their interest lies on making sure the consumer is happy. In Nigeria, it is the contrary. So, even with the availability of the report they would find one excuse or the other. Honestly, most of the networks being deployed wouldnot be acceptable in many places; (I will say of an environment I am familiar with) in the United States.
A service provider would build the network and test same for months- collecting data to conduct performance analyses, before they ever launch for public consumption. In Nigeria, when you confront these operators they usually take it as ‘Nigerian thing’.
We have other plans of using small cells to provide broadband services to enterprises. We discovered, most time, you may have good coverage outside of your enterprise building, but indoors it’s a different case. So, using facilities of the service providers we can boost the in-house coverage.
On the other hand, most small companies can’t afford the cost of fibre optic connections, while others don’t really need such high speed that fibre provides which shows they will require to embrace the LTE if somebody will give them the services.
Key Observations of Enextgen’s NIWBQR
There are basic things the operators should do which, in my view, do not require so much innovations rather basic engineering. If you deploy a network, the cell sites have to talk each other. When someone wants to move or transfer data from one network to the other, your network has to be aware of such movement by allowing connection to the nearest cell site.
Beyond that, you start talking of innovations. If you have wireless (engineering) labs in our schools the academics can stimulate a lot of these changes required in the sector. It will enable the development of intuitive solutions and save the operators from paying in foreign currencies to obtain the solutions abroad.
We have some of the brightest people in the country, but they need to have access to the equipment- the means of measuring performance, doing designs, etc. That will be the biggest innovations, because nothing is so unique with places like the United State, except their approach to engineering is more practical. Even as a small company we have the tools such as spectrum analyser, vector network analyser; we have means or characterising the performance of the networks in terms of the RF signal quality.
We are working on the means of creating some sensors that could be used in the farm; simply call it Internet of Things (IoT). We are experimenting on that now. For the future, that is the area we would want to focus on.
Likewise, the buzz is on 5G, though it will not become commercial till 2020, but most service providers in the US are on 5G trial mood. The technology will enable a lot of things like Internet of Things (IoT)- communicating through packets of data. We are leveraging our small lab to investigate things along IoT. Our aim is to build solutions to assist the agricultural sector. That is our long term goal. Presently, our resources are geared toward helping the service providers ensure quality delivery.
The latest version of the report covers some areas where LTE has been deployed like Victoria Island and the mainland covering Ikeja and parts of Yaba, all in Lagos State. Then, BeninCity- though Benin doesn’t have LTE coverage across the city, however, as we carry out the test, areas where LTE isn’t available, we try to collect data on the UMTS or 2G or whatever they have. While we have capacity to analyse 2G and 3G, our primary focus is usually 4G LTE. Next week we will be going to Abuja.
Getting Across To NCC
Actually, for almost two years, we have been sending copies of our reports to the NCC. Lately, they have started responding to our correspondences. We really look forward to working with them to achieve this singular objective- contributing something meaningful to the society based on our technical knowledge.
As the public gets value for their money, the service providers get even ahead of challenges of poor QoS. NCC has done well as a Commission, however, there is need to step up monitoring and evaluation of the networks, especially during deployments to ensure not only are standards followed, but the public are not short-changed. Enextgen Wireless will be very happy to work with them in this area.
I think it is cultural: Nigerians like to have organisations that function like the counterparts in the United State or any developed country, but we do shy away from key implementation strategies. It is not about the nomenclature, rather the strategy adopted and followed judiciously. It is disheartening to see that basic rules are not being adhered to by operators while deploying networks.
Spectrum, Broadband and Rural Connectivity, e.g. Smile Communications
In my view, a company like Smile Communications, by the nature of its structure, shouldn’t be expected to have a national focus at the present. Yes, they want to deploy services and make money in the process; I mean there is a very little money for them in the rural areas, so they focus on the cosmopolitan areas where they could make money. We started our work when only Smile had LTE for deployment in Nigeria.
You can see the quality of their network going down because the customer base has increased, but they are not investing in improving the quality. At the early stage Smile stood out in terms of Quality of Service (QoS). In Victoria Island, for instance, it stood out. Now, Glo, MTN and other service providers are now focused on LTE in VI, you can see the Smile’s quality nose-diving.
When you have limited spectrum and want to attract a lot of customers, you either have to improve on the engineering so that the spectrum could accommodate more customers or you have additional spectrum you could use to service a segment of the customer base. Smile only has 10 MHz bandwidth; even though it is a nationwide licence, the rural area will not provide them the kind of revenue they need to boost the network.
I think currently, they are focused on satisfying the current customers, because they seem not to be improving on the engineering of the 10MHz, because we could see it from our data. The way Smile could go to the rural areas is if government mandates them, which government probably wouldn’t dare it. Also, they could be given subsidy to achieve that purpose.
We also have Bitflux which has a bigger spectrum with 30 MHz bandwidth and its license is also nationwide, even though the frequency is high at 2.3 GHz. It is better Bitflux has not gone ahead to deploy in some key cities, because where they are presently they have done terribly with the network deployment. As a country, we wouldn’t want such things happening.
Danbatta Inaugurates Evaluation Committee for 2020 Research Proposals
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman and chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has inaugurated a 15-member Evaluation Committee for the assessment of the 2020 Telecommunications based research from Academics in the Nigerian tertiary institutions.
The Committee, chaired by Prof. Mu’azu Bashir, a professor of Computer and Control Engineering and Head of Computer Engineering Department at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was inaugurated at the Commission’s Head Office in Abuja on Wednesday, September 24, 2020.
Speaking during the inauguration, Danbatta said that the initiative speaks to the Commission’s commitment towards encouraging the development of indigenous innovative solutions that impact not only the Telecom industry/ICT sector positively but also the nation as a whole.
“We want to continuously support research projects that can lead to the development of new products and services in the industry as the key enabler of the nation’s digital economy.
“We are all aware of the appreciable contributions of the Nigerian Telecommunication sector to the growth of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) over the years, which peaked at 14.53 per cent in second quarter of 2020,” he said.
Danbatta, stated that the Commission understands that funding Research and Development (R&D) is fundamental to ensuring that the needs of consumers are properly anticipated and met while enabling sustainable economic growth, adding that the Digital Economy-based Research Innovations project underlines the importance of funding R&D.
According to the EVC, for the year 2020, the request for proposals was tailored to providing innovations and solving challenges in five emerging areas of technology.
“These include innovative clean energy technology; 5G deployment in Nigeria; Internet of Things (IoT), low power Wide Area Network (WAN) technology; advanced methods of Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) management and test mechanism as well as monitoring and localisation of drones.
“While emphasising the importance of telecommunication/ICT industry to innovative developments and transformations within the economy, Danbatta tasked members of the Committee to thoroughly evaluate all submissions in order to sieve, identify and select the best from the proposals submitted.
“Members of this Committee have been carefully selected from the Academia, related government institutions and the industry based on their pedigree.
“I have no doubt in my mind that you will carry out the assignment to the highest acceptable standards,” the EVC said.
The Committee is expected to carry out the assignment and submit its report within four (4) weeks from the day of inauguration.
FG Awards Cash Prizes Worth N16.5m to Winners 0f Nigeria @ 60 Challenge
The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, has awarded prizes worth N16.5million to nine Nigerians who emerged winners of the Nigeria @60 Independence Challenge.
It could be recalled that the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR approved an inclusive National Independence Day Celebration programme with the theme: “Together at 60,” where it called on creative Nigerians to choose brand and come up with elements that will beautify the anniversary.
The Sub-Committee, chaired by Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), minister of Communications and Digital Economy, launched the challenge Portal on Friday, 4th September, 2020, with the aim of providing opportunity for talented, critical thinking and creative individuals or teams to produce the event slogan, photograph, and a poem.
The Jury, made up of Directors from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), evaluated the submissions based on the relevance to the theme, originality, creativity, impact and mode of presentation.
During the evaluation, a total of 3,258 entries were received, out of which 1,931 Slogan, 638 Poetry, and 689 Photography entries were submitted.
While presenting the Awards and Prizes, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and Chairman of the 60th Independence Celebration Sub-Committee, Dr Pantami said that the competition was meant to create a platform for all Nigerians to participate in the diamond jubilee anniversary.
He said “Federal Government provided this opportunity for Nigerians to choose their brand and harness the power of creative minds to create other elements that will form the brand of the anniversary.
Dr Pantami congratulated the winners and charged those that participated to continue utilising their skills for the betterment of themselves and Nigeria at large, adding that “the nation will be proud of them”.
He said the Diamond Anniversary which is will last till September 30, 2021 is a period for Nigeria to celebrate its unity.
He also commended the jury that worked day and night to ensure fairness during the selection of nine winners from each category of the competition.
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), while delivering the welcome address, described the process as first of its kind, where citizens are engaged virtually to plan the celebration.
Abdullahi said that COVID-19 pandemic has brought another opportunity for Nigerians to celebrate 60 years anniversary in style.
The Chairman of the Independence Competition Judging Committee, Director, IT Infrastructure Solution, NITDA, Dr Usman Gambo Abdullahi said the competition was meant to tap into the creative and innovative potential of the youths.
The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi- Esan represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Tope Fashedemi commended the efforts of all participants, describing every Nigerian as a winner.
The outcome of the assessment saw the emergence of the following as second runners up: Sani Ibrahim (Slogan), Samson Mayor Emeka (Photography) and Umoru Patrick Eghiegbai (Poetry); first runners up Yusuf Muhammad Ahmad (Slogan), Leke Adebule and Team (Photography), and Mustapha Dauda Gwary (Poetry). The winners of the challenge are: Nwakuba Ezinne (Slogan), Amao Daniel Oluwadarisimi (Photography) and Kalu Rejoice Chioma (Poetry).
The winners were presented with awards and cash prizes in each category, with the second runners up getting One Million Naira each, first runners up One Million and Five Hundred Thousand Naira each, and the winners, Three Million Naira each, for their creativity and innovative contribution to the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.
The Diamond/Innovation/Change Sub-Committee is made up of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy as Chairman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Mallam Adamu Adamu, Honourable Minister Education and Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Head of Civil Service of the Federation as members, while DG NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, was later co-opted as member.
Ekeh, Zinox Boss, Says Tech Experience Centre Perfect 60th Anniversary Gift to Nigeria
Leo Stan Ekeh, serial digital entrepreneur has described the Tech Experience Centre, an ambitious technology project that is widely expected to bridge the gap to cutting-edge technology for millions of Nigerians, as the perfect birthday gift to Nigeria as it turns 60.
The revolutionary Tech Experience Centre, the first of its kind in Africa, is set to be formally unveiled on Thursday, October 1st 2020, incidentally the occasion of Nigeria’s 60thIndependence Anniversary.
Equally important, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy, is expected to commission the auspicious project located within the high-rise Yudala Heights on 13 Idowu Martins Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Also expected to attend the launch are stakeholders from the technology sector, corporate egg-heads and other dignitaries.
The event, which is scheduled for 5pm on Thursday, will be streamed live to millions across the world via digital channels.
Ekeh, who has remained in the forefront of digital evangelisation and promoting knowledge democracy in Nigeria and beyond, has expressed excitement with the birthing of the Tech Experience Centre.
The tech guru affirms that the formal unveiling of the Centre on the occasion of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary makes it a fitting present to the country and to all Nigerians.
‘‘Nigeria’s journey as a sovereign independent nation is one that is filled with so many memorable milestones. Although we still face some peculiar challenges, there is much to be proud of as Nigeria clocks 60.
“In the same vein, the launch of the Tech Experience Centre represents a major milestone in Nigeria’s march to technology independence.
‘‘Indeed, the unveiling of this unprecedented project right here in Nigeria is a powerful statement of intent and a positive development that every Nigerian should be proud of.
“It is, in my opinion, the perfect birthday to Nigeria as we celebrate 60 years of our independence,’’ he said.
Ekeh, who had called on the Federal Government to consider declaring October 1st Nigeria’s technology independence day, restated the landmark strides that Nigeria had recorded in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
The Zinox helmsman affirmed that the multiple collaborations, increased local participation and access to the latest technologies that would become a right of every Nigerian with the establishment of the Tech Experience Centre is a bold step forward in Nigeria’s march to technological emancipation.
‘‘On a number of occasions, I have reiterated that no country achieves true independence without a level of technological independence.
“The set-up of the Tech Experience Centre is one of such bold investments Nigeria requires to confidently stake a claim for relevance as a technology force to be reckoned with, not only in Africa, but on the global stage.
“The current administration also deserves commendation for its greater emphasis on technology – a critical sector that is being championed professionally by the Honourable Minister, Dr. Pantami.’’
In addition, Ekeh heaped praises on the various tech giants that have partnered with TD Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s technology, lifestyle and solutions distributor, to bring the idea of the Tech Experience Centre to life.
‘‘We must also not fail to recognize and appreciate the global OEMs that have identified with this project.
“Having renowned tech brands such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell Technologies, HP, Schneider Electric, Zinox, Philips, Samsung, Apple and Bosch, among others, come together under one roof to build local capacity and place the latest technologies at the fingertips of every Nigerian is a huge development that will come with a number of positive multiplier effects for the country,’’ he concluded.
The Tech Experience Centre will officially open its impressive doors to Nigerians on Thursday, October 1st by 5pm.
For the first time, Nigeria will play host to the latest global technologies including those not normally available in Africa, offering all classes of visitors a first-hand experience of new gadgets, solutions and infrastructure that would have previously required a visit abroad, thereby saving corporate organizations, government establishments and individuals money or scarce foreign exchange expended on these trips.
The Centre will house global technology giants under one roof, with the aim of making cutting-edge technology easily accessible to Nigerians and other nationals at entry costs that make sense.
Experts and economic watchers have hailed the expected launch of the centre as a major development that will shore up Nigeria’s relevance in the global technology space, while also boosting the nation’s economy.
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