The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has declined the request of Airtel Africa to secure a slot of the 3.5GHz Spectrum for the sum of $273.6 million, the price the agency sold the last 2 slots at the 5G auction last November.
According to BusinessDay, the NCC justified its decision, citing section 124 of the Nigerian Communications Act, which already set out the process to assign licences.
Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at NCC, was quoted to have said: “Our reserve price was set after necessary benchmarking. We arrived at some idea of what the price should be. The auction determined what the actual price should be. If we have only one party interested that will determine the price. If the reserve price throws up a higher price, that new price becomes the new price.”
Airtel’s first bid
Airtel took part in the 2021 5G auction but failed to secure the license after losing to Mafab Communications and MTN Nigeria, both of which bid $273.60 million to surpass Airtel’s final price of $270 million.
Segun Ogunsanya, CEO of Airtel Africa, had said that the telco pulled out of the bid because it wanted to monitor the market and explore affordable 5G services to meet the broadband demands of its subscribers.
This time around, Airtel is expected to battle for the 5G license with Globacom and tier-two telecommunications service providers. Whoever wins the spectrum will join MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications.
After losing the 5G licence in Nigeria, Airtel acquired additional spectrum in Kenya at $40 million to extend its operations and enable its 5G rollout plans in the East African country.
It remains to be seen if Airtel will submit another bid for additional spectrum in Nigeria. The telco giant has yet to commence the 5G full rollout in any African country, indicating that it may be taking its time to pick what works for it and may not be too eager to break the bank on the fifth-generation technology.
NCC to ramp up 5G deployment
A few days ago, the NCC disclosed that it had concluded arraignments to host an engagement session with stakeholders to discuss and provide more insight into the Draft Information Memorandum that will guide the 5G adoption in the country.
The regulator had earlier announced it would auction 2 additional 3.5GHz Spectrum band licenses before the end of 2022 to boost the deployment of Fifth Generation services in Nigeria.
In May, the NCC issued letters of 5G license awards to MTN and Mafab Communications after the companies won the 3.5GHz spectrum auction conducted by the Commission in December last year.
Earlier in the year, the Federal Government announced a national policy on the successful implementation of 5G, tagged “Ascertaining Full readiness to make 5G Work in Nigeria.”