By Nwakeago Alajemba

Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to enjoy 5G services as Vodacom pioneered the continent’s rollout of fifth generation GSM network in South Africa, this week.

This is happening as the Nigerian Senate opted to probe possible health hazards of 5G in line with concerns raised in many quarters. Experts have dismissed such concerns as baseless and mere conspiracy theories.

Nigerian authorities say they are studying the technology on health and security grounds.

Stakeholders including the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the umbrella body of more than 150 ICT companies including GSM operators are engaging the country’s legislators to close what they call “the information gaps on 5G.” President of the ATCON, Olusola Teniola, said in Lagos to IT Edge News that the association will be working closely with the senate committees and others to create an awareness window necessary and strategic to taking everyone along.

MTN Nigeria had trialed 5G network last November in Abuja with plans for a nationwide rollout this year beginning with Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub of over 20 million people. Operators await approval of the regulatory authorities.

With more than 60 million subscribers, MTN is Nigeria’s largest network operator and Africa’s leading GSM operator.

According to one report, Vodacom “network will support both mobile and fixed wireless services and is currently available on twenty live 5G sites, 18 of which are in Gauteng and two in Cape Town. With immediate effect, Vodacom customers with 5G enabled devices, and within a 5G coverage area, are now able to access one of the fastest and most sophisticated network connections in Africa.”

5G is the next generation of mobile internet connection and offers much faster data download and upload speeds – it is about 100 times faster than 4G. Through greater use of the radio spectrum 5G will allow far more devices to access the mobile internet at the same time and enable artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), virtual reality (VR) and other smart devices at much speed and efficiency.

Just like 4G before it, 5G is contending with health-related controversies. About 12 countries currently operate 5G network including South Korea, China, the United States, Germany and Japan. But the number is growing exponentially as countries and operators seek to leverage the new technology to deliver more optimised services at lower cost.

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