Operators call for review of NCC’s licensing of 2.6GHz Spectrum


Operators in the Information and Communication Technology sector have urged the industry’s operator, the Nigeria Communication Commission to reduce the reserved price for the auction of 2.6GHz frequency band spectrum to enable more participation in the process.
NCC had in April this year, announced that 14 slots were open to interested bidders and pegged the auction of the spectrum at $16 million per slot.
Speaking in Lagos at a stakeholders’ forum to post mortem the licensing of 2.6GHz spectrum, NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said the catalytic impact the growth of the telecommunications industry has had on the Nigerian economy has been profound.
He added that the NCC, in line with its objective, recently conducted an auction for the available lots in the 2.6 GHz spectrum band, adding that in consonance with its practice of collaborative regulation, sought to get useful industry feedback on the auction with the aim of ensuring the effective and efficient usage of available spectrum bands for the delivery of broadband internet access to Nigerians.
He said, “The evolution of the telecommunications industry has been profound over the last 15 years. The auction and subsequent licensing of GSM operators made it possible for the number of telecommunications service subscriptions to increase from less than 500,000 in 2000 to 152 million as at August, 2016.
“The efficient and effective licensing and usage of frequency spectrum has been one of the critical basis on which this explosive growth is based.
“With the progress made, which has addressed voice communications with increased mobile penetration to about 109 per cent, the Commission in line with the objectives of the National Broadband Plan aims to increase broadband penetration across the country to 30 per cent by 2018.
“The catalytic impact that the growth of the telecommunications industry has had on the Nigerian economy has been profound. This positive impact can be accelerated with the pervasive deployment of broadband infrastructure.
“As most Nigerians today access the internet via wireless means, it is critical that important resources for last mile broadband deployment (like frequency spectrum) continue to be effectively, efficiently and transparently licensed for the pervasive spread of broadband services. I hope relevant feedback and suggestions will be provided for the continuous improvement of the frequency allocation process and optimal utilisation of the licensed spectrum.”
He however stated that the forum was meant to assess the performance of the auction of 2.6GHz, saying that based on the performance recorded in the auction, the Commission felt the stakeholders in the industry should be invited to a roundtable to have their inputs in the auction process.
Chief Executive Officer, Spectranet, Mr. David Venn, said the NCC should reduce the reserved price on the auction of the spectrum to enable the operators convince shareholders of their companies on the need to participate in the bidding.
He added that certain modules should be followed to make the auction process transparent and open for all the participants.
The Regulatory/Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Etisalat, Mr. Ikenna Ikeme, also urged the NCC to consider the economic hardship plaguing the country, while coming up with substantive resolution on the auction of the spectrum. Lamenting that with the current reserved price for the auction of the spectrum, he said only operators with deep pocket would be able to participate, thereby making it difficult for small ones to partake in the process.
“Economy is in bad shape and the industry is not insulated from this. The Commission should change as fast as the industry changes and we should also look at the regulation in collocation and sharing,” Ikeme said.
Corroborating Venn’s submission, a representative of Airtel, Mr. Lateef Akintunde, said the cost has been a great challenge hindering most operators from participating, and urged the NCC to beat the cost down to a bearable amount to give room for more participation.
In his comments, the chairman, Auction Committee on Spectrum, Mr. Augustine Nwaulune, said that the Commission did thorough valuation before it came up with the reserved price, adding that the price was below the middle when compared with what is charged the world over.
He, however, assured that the Committee would meet with the operators next month to discuss all issues raised and come up with a way forward.