… As Commission Highlights Rules of Engagement
Stakeholders that gathered for the Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on the Draft Information Memorandum for the 3.5GHz Spectrum auction, organized by the nation’s telecommunication regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Thursday, have asked the Commission to review the cost of spectrum allocation downwards to enable broad participation in the auction process.
The Reserve Price, which the NCC pegged at N75 billion (US$ 197.4 million) with an Initial Bid Deposit (IBD) of 10% of the Reserve Price, is for each of the two (2) slots of 100 MHz TDD each in the 3.5 GHz band.
Speaking at the Consultative Forum, Chairman of the Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators on Nigeria (ALTON), Engr Gbenga Adebayo posited that the proposed licence fee is too high and may affect pricing at retail level eventually. “We are concerned about the cost of deployment of 5G. in order not to have what we will call ‘glamourous 5G’, we have to consider and address the issue of cost now.” While appreciating the NCC for its openness and stakeholder engagements in issues of policy, Adebayo promised that members of ALTON will do all it takes to ensure the success of 5G in Nigeria.
In its submission, Mobile Network Operator, MTN Nigeria noted that the $197.4 million reserve bid price is more than the spectrum market value, and urged the NCC to set the price at $50 million to encourage participation. MTN further advocated for a scattered payment plan and the licence duration to be extended to 30 years, rather than the stipulated 10-year period.
Echoing similar views, Airtel Nigeria was worried that the NCC only made provision for only two winners for the bid, and called for opening of more spectrum for more licencees.
In its views, the GSM Association (GSMA), while calling for a downward review of the price and a 20-year licence period, asked the NCC to make all slots available to operators.
The NCC, while promising to look into the concerns and requests of the stakeholders, explained that clearance for spectrum takes about 24 months before any spectrum is free for allocation.
The auction, which comes with a 10-year spectrum licence and a minimum requirement of a UASL operational licence, will require network operators to carry out periodic Penetration Testing, and Vulnerability Scan of their networks to ensure security of their systems.
The draft IM proposes a rollout obligation that will see the licencees roll out service in at least one State in each of the six geo-political zones, starting from the effective date of the licence, within the first two years.
Within the third and fifth year, the licencee must roll out in additional six States across the six geo-political zones, aside from the states that have been activated in the first two years.
Furthermore, as part of the rollout obligation, licencees are encouraged to roll out services across all the States between the sixth and tenth year of acquiring the licence. A minimum download speed of 100 Mbps (Megabits per second) must be achieved by the operator and shall be regularly measured by the Commission.
The NCC explained that service rollout in each State will mean setting up a minimum of five sites in the State.
The Commission adviced that while the auction date remains December 13, 2021, the date for the Mock Auction has been rescheduled from the earlier stated date of December 6, to a new date of December10, 2021.
In his speech, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami noted that collaboration is key to the success of 5G in Nigeria. The Minister was represented by the Secretary to the National Frequency Management Council, and Director in the Ministry, Engr Abubarka Ladan.
Harping on the need for the auction in relation to the deployment of 5G, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta noted: “5G technology does not only offer enhanced broadband and ultra-reliable low latency communications, it also provides massive machine type communications, where lots of devices will seamlessly connect and interact independently with the Internet without human intervention. Thus, enabling our Smart City Initiatives and making Broadband Use Cases a reality.”
He assured that the Commission will continue to develop polices and guidelines in conjunction with Stakeholders to deliver better quality of experience for all.
Other contributors to the deliberations included Huawei Technologies, GSMA, Inq Digital, Intelsat Satellite Limited, among others.