3.5GHZ Auction: Telcos Kick Against Mtn’s Participation

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Some operators in the telecommunications sector have kicked against MTN’s request to participate in the upcoming 3.5GHz  spectrum auction for the 5G rollout in the country.

The representatives of the telcos believe that this goes against the spirit of fair competition in the market, where one telco has more than one licence and others are yet to get any.

They made their position known at the Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on the Draft Information Memorandum for the 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction on Tuesday in Lagos, where the head, spectrum Administration, NCC, Abraham oshadome explicitly highlighted the Commission’s offer for the spectrum at 273.6 million dollars or its equivalent in Naira , stating that new entrants and existing licences can participate in the auction billed for Dec 19.

MTN Nigeria’s GM Regulatory Affairs, Ikenna Ikeme commenting on the issue said the company participated in the last auction in 2021 with the expectation that since it’s an open market it would be allowed to participate in other auctions if need be.

MTN explained that it’s request became necessary as OEMs that manufacture the 5G equipment often produce for two lots, either A and B or B and C, stating further that having a licence for two lots provides it with the necessary equipment it requires for effective deployment which will lower the cost of the service to the consumers.

Nigeria has four slots in the 3.5GHz Spectrum band, of which so far 2 of these licences have been auctioned although only one licence has launched for commercial services.

Speaking also, Ubale Maska, Executive commissioner, Technical Services, NCC said MTN’s request isn’t a first in the telecoms industry as there are precedents and Nigeria is an open market.

Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC said all requests will be given due consideration and final feedback made before the auction.

“The motive is not to generate money for the federal government. It has nothing to do with the revenue we are going to generate. The price was determined by the last auction. We will always make reference to the reserve price no matter when the auction was had,” Danbatta said.

Earlier in his welcome address, Danbatta noted that in line with the Commission’s strategic Vision (Implementation) Plan 2021 – 2025, which among other things, seeks to promote fair competition, inclusive growth, increased investment and innovative services, and also facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership, the Commission intends to further deepen broadband penetration and encourage fair competition in the rollout of 5G services in the country by auctioning the available lots in the 3.5GHz mid band spectrum.

This, he noted is the reason the NCC invited stakeholders to elicit comments on the draft Information Memorandum (IM) for the upcoming auction.