Airtel Africa, NCC Disagree Over 5G Network Auction

Airtel Africa, NCC Disagree On 5G Network Auction

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Airtel Africa took steps to avoid the  3.5GHz spectrums auction for 5G deployment in Nigeria, but the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) blocked the move, Prime Business Africa reports.

The telecommunications company had offered to pay the reserved price of $273.6 million to obtain the 3.5GHz spectrums for 5G network, indicating lack of interest in partaking in another round of  auction. 

Recall that Airtel Africa, alongside MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications, took part in a December 2021 bidding process, even as Airtel dropped out.

The bidding process saw the initial reserve price rise from $197.4 million to $273.6 million. Eventually, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications won the bid, with the former coming first and the latter taking up the second spot. 

Airtel Africa, the parent company of Airtel Nigeria, is avoiding a new round of  bidding that will increase the cost of the 5G spectrum even higher than the current reserve price of $273.6 million. 

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At a stakeholder meeting on Tuesday, Airtel Africa said if it wasn’t involved in the first auction, the price paid by MTN and Mafab wouldn’t have been as high.

However, the telecommunications industry regulator turned down the network provider’s request, with the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Umar Danbatta, stating that auction method would deepen competition in the industry.

“Following the successful auction of the initial two (2) lots in December 2021, the Commission has received requests to administratively license the available lots at the previous auction fee,” said Danbatta.

What NCC  is saying about the auction:

“…The Commission, in line with 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 up opportunities for new entrants as well as deepen competition in the industry. 

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“The Commission has committed enormous resources to ensure that harmonized Spectrum is secured and released promptly for present and future rollout of services that will underpin 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. 

“Hence, we must ensure the timely release of the Spectrum bands necessary for 5G deployment to the industry to enable us to reap the immediate and envisaged benefits of 5G technology, and facilitate the development of Nigeria’s Digital Economy to foster national growth.”

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