As the Nigerian Communications Commission looks set for the auction of 5G spectrum in the country on December 13, the number of spectrum slots available for the telecommunications companies and the prices to be paid remain major concerns in the industry.
When you send a chat on WhatsApp or stream a movie on Netflix, you are initiating wireless communication. This communication, though wireless, needs a medium to travel through.
To achieve seamless communication over devices, information is transmitted through radio frequencies. Radio spectrum refers to the specific radio frequency allocated to the telecommunication industry. Without spectrum, there can’t be communication over the telephone.
According to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, radio spectrum is used to carry information wirelessly for a vast number of vital services, ranging from television and radio broadcasts, mobile phones and Wi-Fi, to baby monitors, GPS and radar.
After the Nigerian Communications Commission Decree No. 75 of 1992 was enacted, the NCC became responsible for radio spectrum licencing in the country.
In 2001, the commission issued digital mobile licences to three companies (Econet, MTN, and MTEL), kick-starting the telecommunications revolution.
The world has moved from 1G to 2G, 3G, 4G, and now 5G, which is gradually gaining momentum.
According to Ericsson, 5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks, almost 100 times faster than 4G, and will create never-before-seen opportunities for people and businesses.
Ericsson, a leading provider of Information and Communication Technology, said, “Faster connectivity speeds, ultra-low latency and greater bandwidth is advancing societies, transforming industries and dramatically enhancing day-to-day experiences.
“Services that we used to see as futuristic, such as e-health, connected vehicles and traffic systems and advanced mobile cloud gaming have arrived.”
The NCC said recently that it would only auction two lots of 100 MHz TDD slots available in the 3.5 GHz band to support the delivery of 5G services.
“In its drive to deepen broadband penetration in the country, the Commission has decided to auction two lots of 100 MHz TDD slots available in the 3.5 GHz band to support the delivery of ubiquitous broadband services,” it said in a document, titled ‘Information Memorandum on 3.5 GHz Spectrum Auction’.
According to the commission, the two lots of 100 MHz each in the 3.5 GHz band it would offer are in the 3500-3600 MHz and 3700-3800 MHz range.
During a stakeholders’ consultative forum on the draft information memorandum for the 3.5GHz spectrum auction, the NCC disclosed that it had three more spectrums to offer, but the process of unclogging them would take 24 months.
There are five major mobile licensees in Nigeria, namely Airtel Networks Limited, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited (trading as 9Mobile), Globacom Limited, NATCOMS Development Investment Limited (trading as Ntel), and MTN Nigeria Communications Plc.
There are other service providers offering fixed and wireless broadband services in the country.
One of the telcos, Airtel Nigeria Communications Plc, had in a comment to the NCC, said, “Airtel observes that only two lots of 100MHz TDD spectrum in the 3.5GHz band ranging from 3500–3600MHz and 3700–3800MHz is available for auction and there will be only two winners.
“The commission should make more slots available for auction.”
MTN told the commission that the reserve price of $197.4m was 136 per cent above the market price for 100 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum.