Minister clarifies, as mixed reactions trail MTN’s 5G network license claims

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has denied claims that a 5G network license had been given to MTN Nigeria Communications Plc.

According to a statement that was seen by Nairametrics, the Minister said no telecoms operator in the country has been licensed to operate 5G network.

The statement also disclosed that research is still being carried out to determine the health and security implications of the new generation network. Some part of the statement quoted the Minister to have said:

“The National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), of which I am the Chairman, has not deliberated on or released any bulk frequency spectrum for the deployment of 5G.

“No license has been issued for the deployment of 5G in the country. A 3-month study trial commenced on the 25th of November, 2019 in order to critically review and study the health and security implications of deploying 5G in Nigeria.

“As part of the study trial process, I directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure that a team of experts, security agencies and other stakeholders fully participate in the trial process and my office also invited these agencies to participate in the trial.

“The trial process has been concluded and the study and reporting process is currently ongoing.”

The Minister went further to stress that the 5G network will not be deployed based on speculation. Instead, the Federal Government will first consult with experts and the public.

Anynyone who has concerns about the 5G network to contact the NCC for information, the Minister said.

He also assured Nigerians that the government will always take the welfare, health, and security of the public into account while considering the deployment of any technology.

The backstory: Some days ago after a report claimed there is a link between 5G network launch and the Coronavirus Pandemic, Nigerians raised concerns. They  questioned whether the Federal Government would revoke the “trial 5G license” that was earlier given to MTN Nigeria.

It should be recalled that in 2019, MTN Nigeria launched its 5G-demo network in partnership with Huawei in Abuja. Interestingly, Minister Isa Pantami was the Guest of Honour during the occasion.

Possible hidden truths: Pantami had stressed that no frequency spectrum had been released for the deployment of 5G. However, MTN Nigeria had, in an earlier statement, disclosed that the NCC had given it a trial spectrum for a test it conducted in November 2019.

In July 2018, MTN Nigeria announced that it would begin to commercially deploy 5G technology in Nigeria before 2020. Then in 2019, it conducted a demo launch in Abuja, as part of its plan to roll out 5G in other major cities.

While commenting on the planned launch of 5G across the country, MTN’s CEO, Ferdinand Moolman, had even stated:

5G will make our life better, drive incremental capacity, and open up new businesses.

“MTN as a company is constantly making efforts to break barriers by democratising voice and data connectivity in order to improve subscriber experience, and has invested over N800 billion in infrastructure in Nigeria.”

Note that a memo from MTN Nigeria, as shared by former lawmaker, Dino Melaye, also indicate that the NCC had provided a trial spectrum to MTN.

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