Operators Seek Review of Spectrum Auctioning Framework

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LAGOS, OCTOBER 18, 2016 – Telecommunications operators in the country have called on Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to review its spectrum auctioning framework if they are to actively participate in the next round of 2.6GHz spectrum auction process.Speaking at the 2.6GHz spectrum auction forum for stakeholders in the telecommunications industry, David Venn, chief executive officer, Spectranet, said that the current auctioning process adopted by NCC, though transparent favours big telecom operators with dip pockets which does not provide for equal opportunity to all players.

The post mortem stakeholders’ forum became necessary in view of lack of interest by operators when the bid was opened earlier this year where only an operator (MTN) bided and emerged winner of the spectrum.

He suggested revenue sharing framework where operators that emerged winners pay some amount of money while the balance could be recovered through revenue sharing system in the course of operation with the spectrum. This according to him will attract a lot of investors as against the current system that does not have good business case to sell to shareholders.

Venn also urged NCC to allow for spectrum sharing or trading as well as active infrastructure sharing to encourage operators to roll out services.

Osondu Nwokolo, regulatory affairs, manager, Ntel, noted that difficulty in access foreign currency also played a role why operators did not bid for the spectrum.

“With the current foreign exchange issues in the country, it is difficult to get foreign investors to buy at reserved price. More so, accessing funding locally through the banks is also difficult with the current economic realities in the country,” he said.

On his part Ikenna Iheme of Etisalat, urged NCC to look at making available Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) to operators for service roll out after paying for spectrum. According to him, ‘paying for spectrum is one thing while rolling out service with the spectrum is another which makes spectrum useful.’

In an opening remark, Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC, said that the evolution of the telecommunications industry has been profound over the last 15 years.

“The auction and subsequent licensing of GSM operators made it possible for the number of telecommunications service subscriptions to increase from less than 500 thousand in 2000 to 152 million as at August 2016. The efficient and effective licensing and usage of frequency spectrum is one of the critical basis on which this explosive growth is based.

“With the progress made which has addressed voice communications with increased mobile penetration to about 109 percent, the Commission in line with the objectives of the National Broadband Plan aims to increase broadband penetration across the country to 30% by 2018.”

EVC who was represented by Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, noted that the catalytic impact that the growth of the telecommunications industry have had on the Nigerian economy has been profound.

“This positive impact can be accelerated with the pervasive deployment of broadband infrastructure. As most Nigerians today access the internet via wireless means, it is critical that important resources for last mile broadband deployment (like frequency spectrum) continues to be effectively, efficiently and transparently licensed for the pervasive spread of broadband services.

“It is in line with this objective that the Commission recently conducted an auction for the available Lots in the 2.6 GHz spectrum band.

The Commission in consonance with its practice of collaborative regulation seeks to get useful industry feedback on the auction with the aim of ensuring the effective and efficient usage of available spectrum bands for the delivery of broadband internet access to Nigerians,” he said.

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