NCC CEO, Eugene Juwah
By Emma Okonji
The planned sale of the reserved 40 MHz bandwidth in the 2.3 GHz spectrum band by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has sent shock down the spines of internet service providers (ISPs).
The ISPs, who are yet to believe the recent move by the NCC to License another operator on the 2.3 GHz spectrum band, which is currently being occupied by three operators, said it would be unfair to them, should NCC make do its promise to license another operator on the same frequency band.
Three internet operators, Mobitel, Spectranet and Direct On PC (DOPC) had initially won the bid to operate the 2.3 GHz and were given approval by the NCC to operate on the frequency in providing internet access to the public. The three operators were given 20 MHz bandwidth each, totalling 60 MHz, while NCC kept the balance 40 MHz as reserve.
But early this year, the licensed operators approached NCC to release the remaining frequency to them at a cost they were willing to pay.
They asked that NCC release additional 10 MHz bandwidth to each of them in order to increase their bandwidth capacities to 30 MHz each, while NCC keeps the remaining 10 MHz for the use of guard bands to address the issue of frequency interference.
Having listened to the operators, NCC, this year, called a stakeholders meeting in Lagos to deliberate on the request of the operators, and the majority of stakeholders present at the meeting rallied support for the operators, and insisted it would be right if NCC share the remaining bandwidth to the existing operators, instead of licensing another operator on the same frequency. They argued that the additional bandwidth would increase the capacity of the operators to spread far and wide and deliver quality internet services to the people.
After due deliberations, NCC decided to weigh the various options before taking its final decision.
The operators were however shocked, when NCC, penultimate week, announced openly that it would auction the remaining frequency and license another operator.
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah who dropped the hint in Lagos, said the commission would go on to auction the available 2.3GHz spectrum to aid last mile wireless access on a wholesale basis, and stressed that the last mile connectivity would be deployed using wireless and fibre optic broadband.
Shocked at the recent move by the NCC to auction the remaining frequency to another operator, a director at Spectranet, Ezekiel Fatoye, told THISDAY that it would be unfair to the existing operators, should NCC go ahead to license another operator.
Fatoye argued that they already had 20 MHz bandwidth each and that the new operator would now have 30 MHz, if NCC is still interested in keeping 10MHz as guard bands. "What this means is that the new operator will have competitive advantage over the existing operators that has 20 MHz each," Fatoye said.
Asked if the operators would want to go to court to contest it, Fatoye said they had no such intention, since they cannot challenge the authority of the regulatory body while discharging its regulatory duties. He however maintained that for business continuity and for fair play in business, it would be a better decision if NCC decided to spread the remaining bandwidth among the existing operators.
Juwah however insisted that as part of the mission to achieve economic competitiveness, there was need for cost effective widespread deployment of robust national and metropolitan optic fibre transmission network, adding that effective deployment will include ensuring an even playing field where infrastructure sharing takes place.