Karo Akaba, Chief Commercial Officer, Pan African Towers
Karo Akaba, Chief Commercial Officer, Pan African Towers

The Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Director of Pan African Towers, Karo Akaba has stated that Pan African Towers is ready for 5G deployment. The CCO made this known while speaking virtually on “How Nigeria can become a leading African 5G market” at the 2021 TowerXchange Meetup Africa.

Akaba stated that Pan African Towers is a telecom infrastructure company that is licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide network connectivity across Nigeria. She went further to say that Pan African Towers has about 1000 towers in Nigeria with a footprint of 300 towers in Ghana and is in the business of providing services bordering colocation, build-to suit, managed services, DAS solutions and other telecom services that operators need from towercos. She revealed that PAT has an aggressive growth plan of providing network connectivity to all parts of Africa in the next few years.

Akaba mentioned that PAT builds towers of about 45m on average and can go as high as 75m depending on the needs and demands of their customers. When asked if Pan African Towers was ready for 5G, Akaba said

“We are ready for 5G. We understand that 5G would need Massive Input and Massive Output antennas for 5G deployment, and have engaged with local vendors to do a site audit on PAT sites. Where we find that a site is old and may not have the capacity to contain newer technologies based on our customers needs, we decommission such sites and build new ones. We are right now reinforcing our sites with the technology and capacity that will be needed for 5G deployment” the CCO said.

When asked what power solutions Pan African Towers was deploying at its sites. Akaba said that Pan African Towers relies on hybrid power solutions. She mentioned that PAT makes use of diesel generators and when there is grid availability, the company connects to the grid. She stated that an MNO had reached out to the company regarding their vision for power solutions in 2040 and hence PAT is also towing to that direction of generating power using renewable energy. She stated that in 2020, PAT had converted about 50 sites to be powered by renewable energy. She said Pan African Towers will be converting an additional 150 sites that will be solely powered by clean renewable energy sources.

“So, we are ready for 5G as renewable energy is the way forward for increased capacity. We have made huge investments in renewable energy as we are also very focused about the sustainability of the environment by reducing our carbon footprints”. She said.

Akaba who shed light about the importance of network sharing stated that passive sharing is a no brainer as it was very integral to the growth and development of network connectivity and the deployment of 5G in Nigeria. She agreed with Bako Wakil who was representing the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umar Danbatta when he said that “Passive sharing has worked very well and will continue to work very well in Nigeria as it is very instrumental to the deployment of 5G services in Nigeria”. Akaba quoted a Mckinsey report which stated that passive sharing has enabled network providers to be able to reduce the cost of ownership of their networks by about 30% while also improving network quality. She said that Pan African Towers is engaging government further to utilise street furniture for 5G deployment instead of building sites all over the place.

She further emphasised the importance of passive sharing as it will help in the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria. She commended the government for reducing the Right of Way fees to N145 per metre of fibre cable and further called for the uniform implementation of the RoW charges as it will help to get the nation fiberised.

Akaba said that Lagos state for example is 5G-ready because of the availability of fibre dots in the state. She said PAT is partnering with the government to get this fibre to their sites for the deployment of 5G. The Commercial Expert stated that it was the dual responsibility of towercos and MNOs to fiberise their sites and build more infrastructure to handle the network capacity that comes with 5G.

Quoting the NCC and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Akaba said Nigeria has about 33,000 towers in the country, and will require an additional 40,000 towers to fully deploy 4G services. “If Nigeria needs about 70,000-80,000 towers according to the NCC to deploy 4G fully, it will need way more than tripling that number for 5G deployment” She revealed.

Meanwhile, Bako Wakil a representative of the Executive Vice Chairman, Umar Danbatta, stated that the 5G process started in 2019 in six locations in Nigeria. Following successful trials, the NCC began developing a national policy for 5G deployment. However, due to the Covid-19 lockdown and concerns from citizens, the process stalled and the commission honoured the invitation of the national assembly and presented the benefits of the technology to the transformation of Nigeria into a digital economy as well as the reports from the global bodies showing that there was no correlation with the concerns that were raised. The National assembly gave a nod to proceed and the Federal Executive Council has approved the National policy for 5G.

Wakil further revealed that operators will have 5G services before the end of December as they have developed the information memoranda for a stakeholder engagement. He said the NCC will have a mock for the auctioning of the 5G spectrum by December 13th. He stated that the NCC has identified the spectrum and have a timeline for auctioning it. He also stated that there will be five slots of 100megahertz each, and the stakeholders will decide when the services will be deployed.

Wakil also stated that they will be no good 5G experience if there are power outages. He said that was why the Federal Government is thinking of ways to use Liquefied Petroleum Gas to generate power since Nigeria has the abundance of gas in the country. He also stated the need for the use of solar energy to power sites for 5G. He emphasised the importance of tower integrity and fiberisation to the deployment of 5G and went further to add that the NCC is engaging consultants to do tower integrity tests to ascertain their viability.

As the TowerXchange Meetup Africa conference continues into Day three, the Pan African Towers team will be having a Questions and Answers session on Thursday October 7, 2021 by 10:00AM to shed more light about the company’s business operations in Africa.