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Airtel flags off 5G services, pledges universality for subscribers.

AIRTEL Nigeria yesterday flagged off services on the fifth generation, 5G network in Nigeria, beginning with four states, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers State and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

At a briefing in Lagos to herald the launch, the telco disclosed that with the type of strategies it has mapped out to push the services across the nooks and crannies of the country, life will become easier for Nigerians.

Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Carl Cruz said that 5G will revolutionise the way things are done, and so, it becomes apparent that life is about to get simpler, easier and more interesting for a lot people in Nigeria.

He said: “While we may think that fourth generation network, 4G, is a remarkable platform or improvement on our internet experience, 5G is completely a new experience that everything and anything is indeed possible.

“For instance, with 5G, end to end video playbacks with the support of artificial intelligence, AI is now possible even if you are using your own browser.

“So 5G is definitely a completely new experience with anything you want to do, whether it is self driving cars or virtual reality and indeed so much more. So, with 5G, we can only be limited by the limit of our imagination

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“With 5G today, it is more achievable to empower creative and entrepreneurs in such areas as healthcare, fashion, retail communications and media to bring more to stakeholders’ inventions and ideas.

“It offers a new era of collaboration and presents a new way of economic benefits for this generation. We are going to see the young people all over the country witness growth, establish and unleash revolution in creativity and productivity.

“Users who go on our 5G platform, through enabled devices such as Samsung, iPhone or any of the brands, can experience the speed and robustness of 5G.”

Cruz noted: “The dream that we actualize today has been made possible with the incredible support of our partners.

“We have enjoyed the privilege of working with partners like Samsung and others.

“Also because of the insistence of the leadership of the ministry of communications and digital economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission NCC, that it is time for this wonderful country of ours to be the vanguard of digital communication, so I must say a special thank you to them.”

Also speaking, Airtel Chief Operations Officer, COO, Mr. Femi Oshinlaja said Airtel has come to democratise access to 5G.

Oshinlaja said: “One thing about our 5G is that we have made access to it affordable. Nigerians can get the most affordable router in Nigeria.”

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Since December 2021 when the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC auctioned the first set of the 5G spectrum license, Airtel appeared to have been shut out of serious conversations on the robust network service following the manner it dropped off the bidding, allowing an underdog, MAFAB to grab one of the licenses, making headlines with MTN as the only two 5G licensees.

 The development surprised industry stakeholders, considering that MAFAB has hardly lifted a finger in preparations to deploy the services to Nigerians for over a year it acquired the license.

However, when another opportunity called for Airtel last year when the NCC announced the availability of the remaining lot in the 3.5GHz spectrum, like the giant it has always claimed in the African telecom business environment, it rose stoutly to claim the sole bidder status, splashing $316.7m,  making it impossible for the NCC to carry out auction on the spectrum.

What happened was that the commission had in November 2022 held a stakeholders meeting where it spelt out the Information Memorandum, IM on the availability of the spectrum lots and requested for bidders. The commission also set December 5, 2022 as deadline for making expression of interest payments.

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Two bidders, Airtel Networks and another operator, Network and Connections Limited, known as Standard Networks were said to have indicated interests.

However, on December 7, NCC revealed that as at Monday December 5, 2022 deadline to pay the expression of interest fee, Standard Networks did not comply but rather applied for 12 working days extension. And, so, it was eventually knocked out of the bidding, leaving Airtel as sole bidder.

Some telecom industry players who spoke to Hi-Tech said they were not surprised that Airtel is rolling out service in less than a year, it acquired the license, judging by its industry pedigree since 2001.

Engr Dubem Solomon said “This is exactly what we want. Even if it is not for competition, another operator needed to complement what MTN is doing in 5G so that the Nigerian users can experience the ubiquity of 5G. I can’t understand that an operator got license since 2021 and up till now it went off the radar. Is that not part of what the regulator should probe to ensure a standard sector. We are happy that Airtel is here now. Let the 5G competition begin,” he added.

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