The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has said it will auction the remaining three slots of 3.5GHz spectrum in the country in the next 24 months, when the frequency band must have been cleared and removed from its current custodian, the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT).
The commission had fixed December 13, 2021 for the planned auction of two slots of the spectrum licence that will facilitate the 5G rollout in the country by next year.
Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, dropped the hint during his remarks at the e-Business Life Communication forum on 5G/GSM@20, which held in Lagos recently.
“NCC has concluded on the auction of the first two slots of 3.5GHz spectrum and December 13 date has been fixed for the auction in Abuja. NCC is also working hard to auction the remaining three slots of the 3.5GHz spectrum, and we are looking at auctioning them in the next 24 months, after the frequency band must have been cleared,” he said.
Adinde also disclosed that the planned auction of the 3.5GHz would facilitate the rollout of 5G network in Nigeria in 2022, noting that after the successful rollout by next year, Nigeria would become the second country in Africa after South Africa, to rollout 5G network.
Developed countries that have successfully deployed 5G network include; South Korea, US, UK, Germany, China, Russia, Turkey and Switzerland.
Global statistics from Statista, projected that in 2025, South Korea would lead in 5G rollout through mobile phone connectivity by 59 per cent penetration, followed by US (50 per cent), Japan (49 per cent), China (28 per cent), Russia (19 per cent), Turkey (14 per cent) and Mexico (12 per cent).
Giving the benefits of 5G networks, Adinde said it would further improve financial transactions on mobile phones, because of its large data capacity and low latency period in completing any tasks.
He said the planned 5G rollout in Nigeria would continue to generate to much interests among telecoms operators and subscribers, because of the unique ‘Machine2Machine’ communication feature of 5G technology, which allows machines to communicate with each other at a very high speed without human interference, unlike other technologies that facilitate ‘Human2Machine’ communication.
NCC had last week, through its Information Memorandum (IM) document, listed the rollout obligations, which mandated operators to roll out service in at least one state in each geo-political zone, including the federal capital territory, in the first two years, starting from the effective date of the licence, and in additional six states after five years, ThisDay reported.
NCC had pegged the reserve price for the 3.5GHz spectrum at $197.4 million (N75 billion), for a period of 10 years, but telecoms operators, including GSM Association (GSMA), have disagreed with the reserve price, and have called for a downward review to enable more operators participate in the 3.5GHz auction process, while insisting that the licence period be increased from 10 years to 20 years duration.
Speaking at the e-Business Life Communication forum, with the theme: “Setting the Stage for 5G Journey – Requirements, Deployment and Challenges,” the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who presented the keynote address, spoke about the successes recorded in the 20 years of GSM evolution in Nigeria, and enumerated the need for 5G technology rollout in the country.
Danbatta who was represented by the Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity at NCC, Wakil Bako, said before the 5G network rollout, certain milestones were expected in place and that like other countries that have deployed 5G network, the NCC had already set the stage for 5G rollout in Nigeria.
Tracing the evolution of mobile network from 1G to 4G and now 5G, Danbatta described 5G as new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks that were designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together.
Danbatta said the new technology would deliver higher multi-GDPs peak data speed at ultra-low latency, more reliable and massive network capability. He said that consumers should expect higher performance and improved efficiency in user experience and connection to new industries.
Expatiating further on the need for 5G network, Danbatta said it would lead to huge boom in mobile usage, stressing that the huge growth of wireless network equipment and machines with communication-enabled capabilities attest to this fact.
At the panel session, the panelists also called for downward review of the reserve price for the 3.5GHz spectrum, which NCC pegged at N75 billon.
They called on NCC to consider reducing the price, to enable more participation in the auction process.
Although one of the panelists expressed his feelings, supporting the NCC reserve price, others however called for downward review of the reserve price, insisting that operators need huge sums of money for rollout and facility upgrades after paying the licence fee.
In her welcome address, the Publisher, e-Business Life Communication Limited, Mrs. Ufuoma Emuophedaro, traced the journey of 20 years of GSM revolution, to the time when the first call on the GSM network in Nigeria was made in 2001.
She said the journey, which led to the historic GSM ‘call’ on August 8, 2021, “began when Digital Mobile Licenses (DMLs) were issued by the Nigerian government, through the NCC in January 2001.”
“I dare to say it has been 20 years of transformation with a lot to be proud of, and so much more to look forward to in Nigeria’s telecommunications story,” Emuophedaro said.