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MTN and Airtel Africa among bidders for Nigerian 5G licences

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Nigeria’s telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has picked MTN Nigeria, Airtel Africa. and Mafab Communications to bid for 5G licences at an auction set for Dec. 13, it said on Thursday.

NCC had said in July that it expected to start auctioning spectrum for the next-generation 5G network in the fourth quarter of this year.

The auction will be for the 3.5 Gigahertz (3.5 GHz) spectrum for the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria.

Umar Danbatta, EVC/CEO. Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)

According to the Information Memorandum (IM) presented by the Commission at a stakeholder engagement forum organised on 5G spectrum in Lagos recently, NCC is adopting Ascending Clock Auction format, which is software-based while a mock auction has been slated for December 10, 2021, as a precursor to the actual auction on December 13, 2021.

The IM provides information, conditions, obligations, financial implication, timelines and other necessary details on the planned 3.5Ghz spectrum auction.

The IM also explains the rollout obligations of the would-be eventual winners of the spectrum licence auction, whose reserved price has been pegged at $197.4 million (N75 billion).

The IM also states that only licensees, who make down payment of 10 per cent of the reserved bid price and with 100 per cent regulatory compliance would be allowed to participate in the auction while licensees with outstanding debts that have secured NCC’s approval for a payment plan will be allowed to participate in the auction.

According to the IM, 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 licensees without a UASL will be required to obtain a UASL operational license to be qualified for the 5G licence.

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The eventual licensees 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.

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