Airtel Nigeria has requested that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) should administratively assign it one of the remaining 3.5GHz spectrum lots at the reserve price of $273.6 million.
The request was made today during a stakeholder event in Lagos to review comments made to the NCC’s recently released Information Memorandum regarding the planned auction of two 3.5GHz spectrums for 5G deployment.
The telecom operator argued that getting one of the two 3.5GHz spectrums by administrative assignment would ensure it does not participate in another auction where the licence ultimately goes to the highest bidder.
Recall that Airtel had participated in the first auction held in December last year, which saw MTN and Mafab Communications emerging as winners.
The company pointed out that its participation in the first auction made the process competitive because MTN and Mofab would have been issued the licences at the reserve price if there was no third bidder.
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NCC declines request: Meanwhile, the NCC turned down Airtel’s request, noting that though it was a fair request, the process has been set out and the spectrum would be allocated through auction only.
The starting price: At the last 5G spectrum auction, NCC had fixed the reserve price at $197.4 million. The price was pushed to $273.6 million, which was the final price paid by MTN and Mafab to acquire the licence. The $273.6 million is now the reserve price for the remaining spectrum lots billed to be auctioned on December 19, 2022.
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Guided by the law: Speaking at the stakeholder’s forum which was organised to get inputs from the industry players on the auction process, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, noted that though requests have been made for administrative assignment of the spectrum, the Commission would go by the law guiding its operations. He said:
“Following the successful auction of the initial two (2) lots in December 2021, the Commission has received requests to administratively licence the available lots at the previous auction fee. However, the Commission, in line with its powers under the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, has decided to licence the available lots in the 3.5GHz band through the Auction Method which is a transparent and efficient approach that can open up opportunities for new entrants as well as deepen competition in the industry.
“The Commission has committed enormous resources to ensure that harmonized Spectrum is secured and released promptly for present and future rollout of services that will underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), including International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT-2020) services.
“We have kept ourselves abreast of developments at international fora, including ITU-R Study Groups to enable the allocation of strategic Spectrum to IMT services especially the IMT-2020 which has been on the front burner in the last two ITU-R Study Cycles. Hence, we must ensure the timely release of the Spectrum bands necessary for 5G deployment to the industry to enable us to reap the immediate and envisaged benefits of 5G technology, and facilitate the development of Nigeria’s Digital Economy to foster national growth.”