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NCC provides level playing field for MNOs on spectrum auctions

The Nigerian Communications Commission has said that it has provided a level playing field for the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to participate in the spectrum auction after the 2.6 Gigawatts spectrum which saw MTN emerging as sole winner of 6 slots out of 14 slots.
This position was made known by the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta while fielding questions during a media interaction in Lagos, adding that “there was an auction of 14 slots in the 2.6 Gigawatts spectrum band and the bandwidth of 5 megawatts total 70 megawatts. The idea behind this auction is to drive the deployment of broadband 4G services which is on the front burner of our 8-point agenda in improvement in broadband penetration.
“Only MTN participated in that process and emerged winner of 6 slots out of the 14 slots. Subsequently, and in consistent with the information available to us, MTN was assigned 6 slots at the cost of $96million at the exchange rate of N200 to a dollar. So we were left with 8 slots without any interested buyer. After the postmortem we discovered that the price was on the high side which was part of the reason for lack of participation and another was the prevailing economic condition in the country then. These were the two key things that affected the participation in that auction.”
He stated that in order to encourage others in the participation of the auction the commission studied the recommendation which the stakeholders will like to see, which include the spectrum price remaining the same even though the dollar to the naira exchange has changed.
He added that other recommendation centered on the fact that if there will be a repeat process of spectrum sale to be made it should be for only national licenced MNOs, whose interest needed to be protected.
In view of the 8 slots, he said that the commission wrote to the MNOs offering them the 8 slots for the same reserved price at N200 to a dollar exchange rate.
“The exchange rate may have changed now, but we are saying that if you are interested in the sale of the spectrum you will get it at the same exchange rate to a dollar as against the prevailing exchange rate of a dollar to N350.
“The intention is not for the commission to have money. By the close of the deadline we had one company and national licencee in the six out of the eight slots and one said they need no time which was not in the commission Acts,” he added.
According to him, this process is going on and the recommendation has come to the EVC and no action has been taken because the process has not been completed.
Danbatta stressed that the intention is to sell the spectrum at the same reserved price to potential bidder and for them to pay the same rate despite the present exchange rate.
The responsibility of the NCC, he pointed out is to ensure that release of spectrum to enhance the broadband services as other countries are doing in the emerging broadband market, which will be for economic transformation, benefit of consumers and the nation.

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