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Telcos reject Nigerian govt’s N75bn price tag for 3.5GHz Spectrum

Aside the price tag, Mobile Network Operators recommended that 20 years period was more feasible as it gives room for more planning and implementation writes JUSTICE OKAMGBA

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Telecom operators have decried the high cost of 3.5Ghz Spectrum and it’s 10 years licensing period proposed by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The mobile network operators identified these as major issues that need to be reviewed before the official auctioning date.

The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Thursday, hosted a stakeholder engagement forum In Lagos where the draft Information Memorandum (IM) for the upcoming auction of the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band was discussed exhaustively.

The Information Memorandum (IM) is a comprehensive document, which defines the process emplaned by the Commission for the auctioning of the 3.5GHz spectrum band.

The document also provides information on the Nigerian telecommunications market, details of the spectrum to be made available, the pre-qualification process, the auction process as well as the indicative timetable.

According to officials at the NCC, mobile operators like MTN, Airtel, under the aegis of GSMA said the ₦75 billion ($197.4m) set as reserved price for the spectrum would limit many players from participation in the auctioning of the spectrum.

Mobile operators in their feedbacks and recommendation on the IM draft to the NCC, said the spectrum price was too expensive and higher than what obtains in most other countries that have rolled out 5G.

Telcos said the industry regulator needed to encourage more participation by lowering the reserved price while considering the market realities in the industry.

Also, they argued that the proposed 10 years licensing period on the spectrum band was not enough as it would limit the time to plan and implement actions towards the 5G rollout.

Operators recommended that 20 years period was more feasible as it gives room for more planning and implementation.

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In response, the NCC expressed commitment and readiness to ensure that 5G succeeds.

The regulator said it had considered several factors it came up with the price, however, added that it would consider the duration of the license.

“For us in the sector, we are most concerned about the cost of 5G. This new direction will require a lot more investment, and the current infrastructure might not be sufficient and efficient for it.

According to the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, there is a need to address the issue of cost.

He said in order not to have 5G that is only glamorously deployed and not efficient, then, the issue of cost must be looked into.

Infrastructure, CNI Bill, Other Critical Issues

Speaking to TechEconomy, Dr. Adedoyin Adeola, Ag CTO, Airtel Nigeria said infrastructure was still a major issue for the sector regardless of its plans to roll out the 5G network.

He lamented that the destruction of fibre cables which are critical national infrastructure by road contractors remains an issue that has not been resolved.

He said Airtel records at least 400 fibre cuts every month from road constructions, and there are no compensations from the government.

“The money spent on these infrastructure are coming from somewhere and needs no be recouped.”

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He said the NCC has not done enough in making sure that National Assembly expedites action in the passage of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) bill into law so that rate of vandalism will end.

“These people need to be punished for incurring losses that affect us and quality of service as well.”

TechEconomy recalls that Industry had over the years demanded that the Federal government to declare all telecoms facilities across the country critical national infrastructure but their request was never heeded to, leading to frequent vandalization of telecoms infrastructure in various parts of the country.

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