Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen
Telecomms Operators on Monday listed high cost placed on the auction of the available bands in 2.6GHz Spectrum by the Nigerian Communications Commission, ( NCC) as a major factor prevented them from showing interest in the frequency.
The operators who spoke in Lagos at a stakeholders consultative forum organized by the NCC tagged ‘2.6Ghz Spectrum auction post mortem’ also listed difficulty in accessing foreign exchange as well justification of such investment to their shareholders as hindering factors to show patronage for the spectrum.
According to them, the $16 million pegged for a slot during the auction was far too high and many of them would prefer to hold on to what they have as the sector is groaning from dollar to naira issue.
The Chief Executive Officer of Spectranet, David Venn described the auction as an untransparent ‘beauty pageant’ approach which favoured operator with deep pocket.
He said auction process only favoured rich operator with huge revenue to buy the spectrum.
The Director External Affairs, ntel, Mr. Osondu Nwokoro said as at the time of fixing prices for the spectrum, dollar/naira exchange rate was less than N200 per US dollar but rose to about N500 since the auction period and still flutuacte.
This he said made availability of funds very difficult.
He said NCC should consider spectrum trading and an active sharing in its infrastructure sharing approach among operators.
Also, Etisalat Nigeria’s Director Regulatory/CSR, Ikenna Ikeme, NCC should make the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) more accessible to the operators.
This he said is important to help the operators deliver services to the rural areas saying that service providers have contributed so much to the USPF and they should be able to benefit from it in this hard time.
He said the 2.6GHz spectrum should have been sold with other smaller frequencies.
A representative of Airtel, Lateef Akintunde noted that thereis paucity of funds at this period and encouragement from the NCC would brighten the morale of operators.
A representative of the Global System Mobile Association(GSMA), disclosed that spectrum is capital intensive to the operators and that the industry should constitute an empherical committee to determine effective ways of deploying spectrum.
Earlier in his remarks, NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta noted that 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 EVC who was represented by the Director Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo said, “The efficient and effective licensing and usage of frequency spectrum is one of the critical basis on which this explosive growth is based.”
According to him, the positive impact can be accelerated with the pervasive deployment of broadband infrastructure.
He said, “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.”
Director, Spectrum Administration, Austin Nwaulune lamented that the response to the auction process of the legacy spectrum “fell below expectation” necessitating the forum.
He urged the carriers to speak out on the way forward.
It could be recalled that NCC advertised the availability of 14 slots in the 2.6GHz spectrum for operators to bid for in an auction. It set a reserve price of $16milion for a slot of the frequency of the spectrum. One lot or slot of the frequency is made up of two portions of 5megahertz (MHz).
Only MTN expressed interest in the process.The telco paid a total of $96million (N19.2billion) for the licence – a cumulative 30MHz in the 2.6GHz frequency.
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