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Chuks Udo Okonta
Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta, has said in Lagos, Tuesday, that the efforts by the Commission to timely auction available spectrum for 5G services in Nigeria, is primarily driven by the pursuit to join the global community to advance digital services and enhance quality communications infrastructure for the benefit of the citizenry, and not by the need to attract revenue for government.
Danbatta, who spoke to a cross section of industry players at the Marriott Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, during the Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on the Draft Information Memorandum for the 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction hosted by the Commission, said there is need for stakeholders to understand the genuine vision of the Commission to equip the nation with the latest technologies and services which is the focus of the efforts to deploy 5G services nationwide.
“I want to disabuse the mind of those who feel that the objective of the NCC to auction the first and the second rounds of the 5G spectrum bands is to generate money for the Federal Government. This is not correct. The overriding consideration is not to generate money for the Federal Government but principally to ensure deployment of 5G services that enhance better life for Nigerians and the growth of the nation’s economy as a whole through provision of qualitative high-speed Internet services that increase productivity and efficiency across sectors.
“For those who are conversant with developments in the industry, the proactive regulatory approach of the Commission in transiting Nigeria from 1G, to 2G, 3G, 4G and now to 5G has brought remarkable socio-economic developments, transforming lives and businesses. This clarification is very important at this stage to put to rest the insinuations and misconceptions being bandied in certain quarters. Our intent is purely to digitally transform Nigeria and Nigerians towards becoming a leading digital economy not only in Africa but globally and where telecoms continue to be a major enabler and contributor to the nation’s economic growth,” the EVC said.
Danbatta also explained the rationale behind the need to conduct an auction on the second round of the 5G spectrum sale. According to him, following the successful auction of the initial two lots of the 5G spectrum in December 2021, the Commission had received requests to administratively licence the remaining lots at the exact fee the initial two lots were auctioned.
However, the Commission, in exercise of 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 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 in a timely manner for present and future rollout of services that will unleash the potentials of 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”, the EVC explained.
“Hence, it is important that we ensure the timely release of the Spectrum bands necessary for 5G deployment to the industry to enable us reap the immediate and envisioned benefits of 5G technology and facilitate the development of Nigeria’s Digital Economy to foster national growth,” he said.
Representatives of telecoms companies, media and other stakeholders made additional inputs into the Draft IM in addition to the comments and inputs already received via correspondence before the forum commenced. The NCC’s Executive Commissioner Technical Services, Engr. Ubale Maska, who is also the Auction Adviser, also reminded stakeholders at the forum that Commission will still take comments up to close of business on 17th November 2022 just before the final IM that will guide the auction process is published on 18th November 2022.
The Commission has developed a draft Information Memorandum (IM) for the Auction of the 3.5GHz band which has been published on its website on 21st October 2022, to enable stakeholders review and make inputs and comments. The Tuesday, November 15, 2022 forum in Lagos, was to deliberate on the draft document and take contributions from stakeholders to enrich the quality of the document for auction process and towards the efficient management and utilization of this important spectrum resource in line with global best practices.