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Reps to probe NBC, MTN, others over sale of bandwidth

House of Representatives has declared that it would investigate the process of Digital Broadcast switchover in the country, particularly the sale of bandwidth to MTN.

The House is also poised to investigate the concession of the Graphic User Interface (GUI) value added services to InViewTech Ltd. of United Kingdom.

This investigation was initiated following the resolution to a motion by Rep. Chris Azubogu (PDP-Anambra).

The House Committee is also determined to find out whether the aggregation of the equipment which cost billions of naira to procure over 20 million ‘Set-up Boxes’ were capable of meeting the digitisation deadline.

Azubogu while moving the motion, informed the house that for the second time, Nigeria failed to meet the deadline for Digital Switch-Over (DSO) from analogue transmission to digital terrestrial transmission.

He hinted that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was saddled with the responsibility to comply with the policy of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which Nigeria is a member.

He asserted that in spite of the digitisation team advice to NBC to issue one ‘Signal Distribution Licence’ to a strong and reliable technical company, it went ahead and issued three independent licences.

Azubogu faulted this trend, adding as a result of this, there was confusion in the market.

He said:  “that the failure to consider telecommunications companies that have the needed critical infrastructure like Fibreoptic Network as key stakeholders in the process of issuance of DSO, should be looked into’’.

According to him, the situation made the proposed solution to look inefficient and wasteful, considering the number of satellite dishes scattered in Jos, where the pilot scheme was launched by the Ministry of Information and Culture.

He revealed that the government paid billions of naira to private companies to import set-up boxes and Graphic User Interface (GUI) for over 20 million viewers in Nigeria but were wasted.

The harvested bandwidth frequency spectrum freed up in the process of digitalization, he said was sold to MTN without recourse to due process thereby increasing the chances of creating a monopoly in the broadcast industry.

He expressed his worries that “with the June 27, 2017 date for the switch-over being just 12 months from now, Nigeria would be required to procure over 20 million units of new boxes from China.

Azubogu urged the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to be alive to its mandate of ascertaining the quality of the boxes that would be sold to Nigerians to ensure compliance with minimum standard and cost.

The motion was eventually unanimously adopted by members through a voice vote and the matter was referred to the Committee on Telecommunications for further legislative action.

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