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MTN, Mafab Win 35.GHz Licence For 5G Rollout

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MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications Ltd have emerged winners of the licence for 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum auction to deploy Fifth Generation (5G) mobile networks in Nigeria after a long-drawn bidding war which lasted to the eleventh round.

The executive vice chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta, who is the auction overseer announcing the resultrs last night at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, venue of the auction said, “After the eleventh round of bidding, MTN Nigeria Plc and Mafab Communications emerged winners. The preferred winners are expected to pay the sum of $273,600,000 for 100MHz.

“After the Main Stage ended, the process moved to the Assignment Stage where the bidders MTN added $15,900.000 to pick the first lot in the 3500MHz-3600MHz to emerge as the first preferred bid winner. Mafab made a offer of $11,120,000 to emerge as second bid winner and picked the second lot of 100MHz in the 3700-3800MHz bands.”

Airtel Nigeria went for the Exit Bid at $270,000,000 thus pulling of the process. According to Danbatta, the provision winners are expected to pay on or behalf of February 24th, 2022. The process which was transparent will provide substantial funds for the federal government, he said.

A chronology of the bid showed that bidding started at the commission placed the reserve price per lot at $197,400,000 as contained in the final Information Memorandum. Round one kicked off at $199,374,000.00; round two started at $201, 367,740.00; and round three started at $204,388,256.10; round four started at $209,497,962.50; round five started at $215, 782,901.38; round six started at $224,414,217.43; round seven started at $231,146,643.96; round eight started at $240,392,509.71; round nine started at $251, 210,172,65; round ten started at $263, 017,050.00; and round eleven started at $273, 600,000.

Danbatta further stated that After the Main Stage of the auction ended at 7.20pm, the process moved to the Assignment Stage which started at 7.43pm where the preferred bidders were assigned spectrum.

The eligible bidders who participated were MTN Nigeria led by its chief executive officer, Karl Toriola in Bidder Room two and Monitoring Room three; Mafab led by its chairman, Alhaji Musibau Bashiru in Bidder Room one and Monitoring Room Two; while Airtel led by Mr. Sreedhar Krishna, its chief financial officer in Bidder Room Three and Monitoring Room one.

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The bidding process was being supervised officials of the Department of State Security (DSS), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and observed by officials of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Association of Licenced Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), NCC and other telecom stakeholders.

The auction took place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja and was graced by the minister of communications and digital economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami who said the auction was the next phase of the implementation of the National Policy on 5G Networks for Nigeria’sdigital economy.

He said following the successful mock spectrum auctioning process on the 10th of December, the government was very happy to have the actual 3.5GHz auctioning process. “You will agree with me that the successful bidders and all other stakeholders have played an important role and still have an important role to play in this journey towards using 5G to support our national economic development agenda.

“I have directed the NCC to monitor the process for the deployment of 5G networks in the country and provide comprehensive regular updates to my office.” He said 5G networks offer significant advantages over current technologies some of which include lower latency, higher bandwidth, greater a device density, longer battery life for nodes and greater network flexibility;support the implementation of National Broadband Plan and help security agencies surmount security challenges in the country.

Eralier in the morning in his welcome address, the executive vice chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta, who is the auction overseer said, today’s auction is momentous in many regards and will usher Nigeria into the exclusive league ofcountries providing 5G service across the globe.

“Today’s auction represents a culmination of all the efforts at the international and national levels that have prepared Nigeria for this momentous leap forward. Therefore, in line with the 5G Deployment Policy and global best practices, the Commission has set in motion the process for the auction and will be offering two lots in the 3.5GHz band with three companies competing to acquire a licence for the available lots.”

The chairman, board of commissioners, NCC, prof Adeolu Akande, in his remarks thanked the bidders for investing millions of dollars into the Nigerian telecommunications sector and wished them a successful auction, noting that, “It is indeed a memorable milestone that Nigeria is set to auction Spectrum in the 3.5GHz for the deployment of 5G at this material time.

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“Spectrum plays a strategic role in meeting the insatable demand for advanced mobile data services as well as a new wave of wireless broadband use cases such as remote object manipulation, industrial automation, virtual and augmented reality as well as next-generation connectivity for vehicles,” he added.

The final Information Memorandum (IM) stated that the auction comes with a 10-year spectrum licence and a minimum requirement of an operational Universal Access Service Licence (UASL). However, new entrants or licencees without a UASL will be required to obtain a UASL operational license to be qualified for the 5G licence.

The eventual licencees will have a rollout obligation plan spanning a period of 10 years, beginning from the date of award of the licence. Between the first and second year of the licence, the operators are expected to rollout service in, at least, one state in each geo-political zone.

From the third to fifth year, they are obligated to cover all the zones. Between six to 10 years, they should cover all the states in the country, according to guidelines set out in the IM.

The spectrum lot won by each bidder will be assigned on a nationwide basis covering all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on a subsisting policy on “use-it or lose-it” with respect to the use of assigned Spectrum.

According to the final IM document, “where a winner does not hold a Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) which is the operational licence for the frequency spectrum slated for auction, it will be issued at an additional fee of N374, 600,000.00 only or at the subsisting licence fee at the time of the auction.”

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