The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has officially declared that the auction of the 3.5 Gigahertz (3.5 GHz) spectrum for the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria, will take place on December 13, 2021.
According to the Information Memorandum (IM) presented by the Commission at a stakeholders engagement forum organised on the 5G spectrum in Lagos recently, the reserved price for the spectrum has been pegged at $197.4 million (N75 billion).
The auction comes with a 10-year spectrum licence and a minimum requirement of an operational Universal Access Service Licence (UASL). However, new entrants or licensees without a UASL will be required to obtain a UASL operational license to qualify for the 5G licence.
The IM also states that only licensees who make a down payment of 10 per cent of the reserved bid price and with 100 per cent regulatory compliance would be allowed to participate in the auction. Licensees with outstanding debts that have secured NCC’s approval for a payment plan will also be allowed to participate in the auction.
The eventual licensees will have a rollout obligation plan spanning a period of 10 years, beginning from the date of award of the licence. Between the first and second years of the licence, the operators are expected to roll out service in at least one state in each geo-political zone.
From the third to fifth year, they are obligated to cover all the zones. Between six to 10 years, they should cover all the states in the country, according to guidelines set out in the IM.
3.5GHz is the most popular spectrum band employed globally by regulators and operators for the deployment of 5G technology. Presently, it seems the only band available in Nigeria for immediate use by operators.
About a month ago, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta has said the commission is almost fully ready to deploy a 5G network in the country.
The announcement of the auction date means all is inset for the rollout planned for 2022.
However, telecommunications operators in Nigeria have frowned at the federal government’s decision to peg the reserve bid price of 5G license at N75 billion (approximately $197.4million).
They expressed concern that the price was a bit high for the operators, considering the huge investments they needed to make to ensure a robust 5G roll out in the country.
According to them, the spectrum licence should be as affordable as possible so the country could maximize all the potentialities of 5G technology when rolled out.