June 2015, I attended a workshop organised by the Nigerian Broadcasting Association. An event organised to prepare content platform owners for the digital era. Nigerian TV broadcasting had existed on the UHF and VHF band for decades and it was time to migrate things to digital platforms so as to free these frequency bands for the more urgent need — broadband telephony. Efforts to migrate the over 100 million Nigerian analogue users began prior to that, 2008. Twelve years down the line, we have seen the country’s ISPs make use of a few of these freed frequencies for 3G and 4G broadband needs. Now that the 5G is knocking at the door, Nigeria has not yet fully completed the digital switchover.
Nigeria began the journey towards digital terrestrial tv broadcasting effectively on October 13, 2008, when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, inaugurated a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on Transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria. In the bid to achieving this mandate, the country has since missed three deadlines – 2012, 2015, and 2017. While there are efforts to complete this process in 2020, there are yet new indications that this might not be feasible.
As at today, all the analogue television stations in Nigeria use the frequencies: 450MHZ – 862MHZ. It is anticipated that after digital switchover, these and the 700Mhz – 800Mhz will be Freed. These freed spectrum are essentially the mid-band and high-band needed for the highly coveted 5G deployment in Nigeria.
This is a big attraction for foreign and direct investment for Nigeria as the freed spectrum, when sold, will earn the FGN well over $4 billion in revenue. So, why do we stay stuck in digital migration if there is such a huge benefit for the country?
“It is anticipated that after digital switchover, these tv stations, along with new ones will all operate their licences under 450Mhz-694Mhz thus leaving 700Mhz and 800Mhz Free. These freed spectrum are essentially the mid-band and high-band needed for the highly coveted 5G deployment in Nigeria“
In a recent interview on the Channels TV, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, disclosed that 5G Mobile Networks demonstration trials conducted in the country by MTN Nigeria in November 2019 were carried out with 4G spectrum. The minister also confirms that the country has not given any licence for 5G operation in Nigeria. With other African countries racing ahead in mobile phone infrastructure development and rapidly increasing coverage of 5G services, Nigeria needs to begin to free the needed mid-band and high-band frequencies to enable seamless deployment of the 5G in Nigeria.