RESPONDING to the controversy surrounding the alleged deployment of the Fifth Generation telecommunication network in Nigeria, the country’s upper legislative chamber and other government agencies are making frantic efforts to resolve the raging debate. Joining the fray, the Senate has argued that there are concerns about the health implications of the 5G network. Its intervention has instigated another wave of discussions as it stops short of asking the Federal Government to put the brakes on the 5G network rollout.
At a time several countries are pushing the frontiers of technology for solutions to a more proficient world, the concerns about 5G have no basis in science and technology. The only concern by countries in the developed world is the Chinese participation in vital national infrastructure where future security vulnerabilities are impossible to assess. “There will be a need for constant and ongoing vigilance, especially if China continues to develop its authoritarian and domineering tendencies, at home and abroad, under the leadership of Xi Jinping,” says The Guardian of London.
Among other contributions, governments, the World Health Organisation, the Nigerian Communications Commission, telecom industry experts and groups of scientists at home and abroad have repudiated the claim of the “grave hazards” associated with 5G. Decisively, the United Kingdom’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said on Twitter “there is absolutely no credible evidence” of a link between 5G and the coronavirus pandemic, which has gained currency in the past few months. Michael Gove, Britain’s Cabinet Office minister, said “conspiracy theories linking 5G with Covid-19 were just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well.” Others describe the concerns as “dangerous pseudoscience theories.”
In support, the NCC said, “It belongs to the same class of non-ionising radiation and as such not different from those of 2G, 3G and 4G; hence there is nothing to worry about as safety and human health are top priorities in the design and deployment of 5G.” In essence, using a 5G device is no more dangerous than for a citizen walking under the harsh rays of the sun, using an electric iron, a microwave oven, radio and television sets because all these elements and fabrications emit a level of radiation. As well, a group of scientists from the University of Ibadan has also rejected this claim that 5G is hazardous.
Yet, the cacophony of doubts has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. This conspiracy theory claims that 5G antennae transmitted the coronavirus to the human body, and that governments are locking down simply to enable telcos to lay cable freely across the world for the activation of the 5G and entrenchment of a sinister new world order. What does scientific advancement have to do with religion? Will the G-8 countries lock down and destroy their own economies just to implant vaccines in human bodies? Is America locking down so that it can send 30.3 million to the unemployment market?
The suspicion of 5G among some global religious leaders has further inspired the ire of some people with the preposterous claim that it comes with a vaccine being developed, which will be implanted as a chip with the 666 number in The Bible beneath human skins. All this is laughable, but the fits of hysteria thus inspired have seized the uninitiated and the superstitious world.
But the scientific and rational world is moving ahead. Even the US, which put Huawei on its Restrictive Entity List last year, citing national security concerns, has reportedly drafted a new rule that will allow the US companies to work with the Chinese telecommunications enterprise to set the standards for 5G networks.
Nigeria should move on with the rest of the world. The Federal Government has granted a GSM operator in November 2019 permission to test-run the 5G network on a 4G spectrum in Abuja. There is no point in delaying the process. In plain terms, 5G is the latest evolution in telecommunication, one that deftly combines voice and data speed 10 times faster than the current Fourth Generation network. Already, the world has moved from 1G, 2G and 3G to 4G. 5G is a significant upgrade of nearly 30 times on the 35 megabytes per second on the 4G, and a generation can be explained with an analogy: experts argue that if 3G is a two-lane highway, with all its crammed traffic, 4G is far better with its six lanes. In turn, 5G is a 12-lane super fast highway, devoid of the usual delays associated with 4G.
Though it uses more antennae than the other Gs, the speed is also superior: it downloads a two-hour movie in five seconds. That is just a tip. Industry experts say that it will stop buffering because it has zero latency and handles higher traffic conveniently with manufacturing, medical operations, government (public service), construction, Internet of Things (connection of most devices in the office, house and cars), edge computing and analytics infrastructure benefitting hugely from the speed and efficiency it offers.
Economically, industry experts estimate that 5G networks will generate $13.2 trillion in global sales activities by 2035, helping various sectors, including farming, education and entertainment, to operate more efficiently. The experts calculate that the US would have gained 2.8 million, China 10.9 million, Japan 2.4 million and France 1.5 million in employment by that year.
Nigeria should not be left behind in the 5G revolution just because of the tendency of government officials to pander to religious and other primordial sentiments. Many countries are already positioning themselves to take advantage of the new technology. The very public antagonism of the US towards Huawei of China is part of the jostling for the most advantageous slots. Definitely, South Korea, which launched 5G in April 2019, is leading in its coverage: it has covered 85 cities. China follows with its coverage in 57 cities (researchers at New York-based Jefferies predict that China will have 110 million 5G users this year). The US has 50 cities and the UK, 37. These frontrunners will maximise the economic advantages the technology offers before Nigeria wakes up from its medieval mindset. The country is already behind in 4G technology.
As experts have warned, it is incomprehensibly unwise for any country to ignore 5G technology and technologically impossible to disengage from it in the development of the generation technology. To take a “Great Leap Forward,” the Buhari regime should quickly come out incisively to disabuse the minds of those opposed to 5G and join the global pursuit before it becomes too late. The National Assembly should devote its legislative energy to critical issues that can change Nigeria’s story from the Third World to First World, instead of engaging in politically motivated lies and religiously unprofitable old wives’ tales.
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