The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), on Thursday confirmed that three telecoms operators submitted their Expression of Interest (EoI) to the commission to bid for the 3.5GHz spectrum licence, whose auction date has been fixed for December 13, 2021.
The NCC in a statement signed by its Director, Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, disclosed that it received their applications to bid for the spectrum.
Adinde also said the three bidders met all criteria, including the payment of the stipulated Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as outlined in the Information Memorandum (IM), which pegged the initial deposit at 10 per cent of the reserved bid price of $197.4 million (N75 billion).
He said the NCC had already fixed December 10 for a mandatory mock bidding, ahead of the main bidding process that will hold December 13, 2021.
The three bidders are MTN Nigeria Plc, Airtel Networks Limited and Mafab Communications Limited. All three bidders paid N7.5 billion each as non-refundable initial deposit, which is 10 per cent of the reserved bid price.
Although Mafab Communications is not known in the Nigerian telecoms space, THISDAY gathered that it is a new entrant and a strategic investor with a non-mobile licence that is investing in one of the small telecoms operators in Nigeria.
The NCC stated: “Consistent with its regulatory principle of open and transparent auction, the NCC has announced that three telecoms companies have qualified as approved bidders of the forthcoming 3.5 gigahertz (Ghz) spectrum auction for the deployment of Fifth generation (5G) networks in the country.
“The qualified bidders that have met the criteria for participation in the licensing process of 3.5Ghz spectrum, including payment of the stipulated Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as outlined in the Information Memorandum (IM), are MTN Nigeria Plc, Mafab Communications Limited and Airtel Networks Limited.
“Consequently, the stage is now set for the three companies to participate in the main auction as well as in the mandatory Mock Auction process, which will come as a precursor to the main auction.”
The commission has also reaffirmed the dates for the conduct of both the mock auction and the main auction. The mock auction was scheduled to hold on Friday, December 10, 2021 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, while the main auction will hold on Monday, December 13, 2021 at same venue and same time.
Meanwhile, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management of the Nigerian NCC, Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, has expressed the commission’s readiness to launch the 5G network in 2022.
Adewolu who made this known in his speech yesterday, at the agency stakeholders’ consultative forum held in Port Harcourt, stated that the recent engagement of the stakeholders was, “to formally commence efforts towards the launch of 5G networks,, next year.
He stressed that, “This would enable Nigerians enjoy cutting-edge technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing; Quantum Computing, Virtual/Augmented Reality, Artificial intelligence.”
Speaking on the forum titled, “Talk to the Regulator,” Adewolu said it was held at a crucial point in the evolution of the telecoms sector, not just in Nigeria, but globally.
He added: “The NCC is currently leading the industry to facilitate the rollout of broadband infrastructure so that Nigeria can achieve the target of 70 per cent broadband penetration to at least 90 per cent of the population by 2025 as articulated in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025).”
Adewolu added that NCC was assisting to put in place critical supporting infrastructure that would facilitate Nigeria’s emergence as a truly digital economy.
“We are working with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to develop a comprehensive national citizens’ identity database on which every other sector of the economy which requires citizen identification can leverage,” Adewolu disclosed.
However, in his keynote speech, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, stated that the objective of the programme with the theme: “Improving Stakeholders Satisfaction,” was embedded in the NCC’s Strategic Vision Plan (SVP 2021-2025).”
Danbatta listed the vision as, “Organisational renewal for operational efficiency and regulatory excellence, facilitate the provision of infrastructure for a digital economy which fosters national development.”
Also, it “promotes fair competition, inclusive growth, increased investment and innovative services, and facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership.”
Represented by Adewolu, the NCC Vice Chairman disclosed that such stakeholders’ gathering was earlier held in Kano for the north and Lagos for the south-west, saying the Port Harcourt session was for the south-south and south-east regions.
He noted that the successes achieved by the industry were because the commission put stakeholders’ satisfaction at the centre of her activities.
He added, “To sustain past achievements and reach new heights, we need all our stakeholders, particularly our licensees, to be fully on board. We need you to key into our programmes and to operate with maximum efficiency.”
Also, in his remarks, the Director, Licencing and Authorisation Department, NCC, Mr. Mohammed Babajika, stressed that despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant challenges, the Commission is further liberalising the Telecoms industry finalising the framework for Mobile Virtual Network Operator and currently reviewing existing regulations.
Some of the stakeholders that spoke with THISDAY at the forum were Doreen Ekeh, Retail manager for the Port Harcourt branch of Airtel Network and Emmanuel Aneke with Smile Network. They commended the NCC for its commitment to the industry.
Emma Okonji in Lagos and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt