By Adeyemi Adepetun
SERIOUS crises appear to be brewing in Nigeria’s $70 billion telecommunications industry over interest shown by MTN to seek additional Fifth-Generation (5G) spectrum licence.
Other operators and stakeholders, yesterday in Lagos, kicked against MTN’s move, to seek additional 5G spectrum in the country.
This was part of the deliberations at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) organised “Stakeholders’ Engagement on the Draft Information Memorandum (IM) on the Auction of Additional 2 Lots of 100MHz in the 3.5GHz Band,” in Lagos, yesterday.
The NCC convened the meeting ahead of the planned 5G-spectrum auction, scheduled for December 19, in Abuja.
Already, Nigeria planned four 5G licences. So far, two lots have been licensed with one currently functional. NCC hoped that by December, there would be additional two.
In the presentation of the response received earlier from stakeholders on the draft IM, read by Assistant Director Technical Standard and Network Integrity Department, NCC, Edoyemi Ogoh, MTN “had respectfully reiterates its prior recommendations that, to ensure that all the spectrum can be assigned and used efficiently, it will be appropriate to allow successful bidders in the prior auctions of spectrum in the 3.5GHz (or indeed any other spectrum band) to participate in future awards. It is in MTN’s considered view that a cumulative cap of 200MHz in the 3.5GHz would be appropriate across all awards in the band.”
On the issue, NCC responded, saying, “Comment received. Other stakeholders’ views are also needed on this.”
Indeed, during the question and answer sessions, stakeholders and operators, who responded, claimed that handling MTN another 5G license would make them a dominant player and such would not make other players to grow.
They stressed that such move is against the spirit of competition in the market for one telco to hold more than once licence when other players are yet to get any of the licence.
But defence of MTN, General Manager, Regulatory Affairs at the telecommunications firm, Ikenna Ikeme, said the company had entered the last auction in 2021 with the expectation that it is an open market and it would be allowed to participate in other auctions should the need arise.
While assuring that there would be more consultations on the issue of MTN, NCC Executive commissioner, Technical Services, Ubale Maska, said the telco’s request isn’t the first in the telecommunications industry as there are precedents and Nigeria is an open market.
Against the backdrop that the auction of new 5G license as this time is politically motivated and avenue to generate more money for the Federal Government, the
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said all requests will be given due consideration and final feedback made before the auction.
The EVC said more comments are invited and the auction process isn’t to generate revenue for the government.
MEANWHILE, request Airtel Nigeria to be granted administrative assignment of spectrum to provide services in the 5G in the country, having participated in the last auction met a brick wall from the NCC.
Airtel had argued that its participation in the last bid round in the 3.5GHz spectrum led to boosting Federal Government’s revenue. It therefore urged the commission to grant it the licence without going through process of auctioning.
According to Airtel, the companies that didn’t participate in the process of last year should be made to go through the process.
But NCC however, said it would only assign spectrum through open, transparent and competitive bidding.