COVID-19, MTN and 5G: 5 Burning Questions Nigerians are asking

It’s been a tough month for Nigerians. We are grappling with a pandemic that has caused even developed countries to stagger. Lives have been lost. Some people have requested that the year 2020 be returned to its rightful owner. Who? We don’t know. We are in very uncertain times, conspiracy theories swirl, questions are being asked. And now more than ever, answers are golden! Nigerians have demanded to know and this might be the perfect opportunity to assist with some answers. With over 60 million subscribers, MTN Nigeria has the lion share of the Nigerian telecoms market. So, it’s obvious that at this time, millions of Nigerians would look to the telco for its input in such dire times. Below, MARKETING EDGE has broken down how the company’s Chairman, Ernest Ndukwe answered tough questions on everything Nigerians are curious about. Here’s what we found:

Will MTN do anything during this COVID-19 wahala?

Actually, MTN Nigeria has already begun providing support to Nigeria and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to help fight the pandemic.

That’s why we have partnered with the NCDC to provide access to communications to co-ordinate their response. It’s also why we have provided support to State Governments, through the Nigerian Governors Forum, to ensure they can stay connected, have the data they need to target response, including a bespoke vulnerability assessment for each state, and can continue to deliver governance remotely during this period. Also, every subscriber is entitled to 300 free SMS, interestingly.

Really, is that all?

No. The company’s board chairman stated in an interview that the second batch of support will be in two phases. The first is a 500-million donation. We committed, through the MTN Foundation, N500 million to the provision of healthcare facilities and consumables, which MTN will procure and provide to the health services institutions across Nigeria.

For the second, MTN has joined a coalition with the Central Bank of Nigeria. CBN facilitated the formation of the COCAVID initiative, bringing together private sector companies to donate funds that will be used in the wider fight against COVID-19.

MTN is a part of that coalition and have committed N1 billion to it. The more like-minded people are able to collaborate and pool resources to achieve scale, the more effective interventions will be.

Will there be a reduction of voice and data cost?

Not at the moment. As it turns out, it might be bad for Nigerians if the prices are reduced right now. Reduced prices would mean more people using the network than normal. That means more people than the network is equipped to cater to. We must ensure that the overall network capacity is not exceeded, which would have catastrophic effects for all and mean that no-one would be able to communicate at all. If we provide free or cheaper access to voice and data services, then the usage level would go up astronomically, and we might get to a level where the network gets so congested that nobody will be able to communicate, defeating the purpose.

What’s all this talk about 5G destroying things?

One of the hardest things about managing the COVID-19 crisis is the amount of fake news and conspiracy theories that are circulating, and the impact that this has on behaviour.

He was clear straight to the point when he stated that “to the best of my knowledge that 5G has not been linked to any adverse health effects not to talk of inducing the COVID-19. Any assertion to the contrary is absurd and scientifically flawed.”

Will MTN deploy 5G?

We can address the potential deployment of 5G and the issues that have been raised once we have overcome the challenge in front of us. But, what I will also say is that I do think, once all the relevant tests and preliminary processes are complete, and the NCC and key stakeholders are of the view that the conditions are right, 5G will be available in Nigeria. Clearly, it is NCC’s responsibility to determine when 5G can be available in Nigeria. So, we need to take a moment to get the right information. You may be shocked at the number of things we can miss!


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