Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are yet to efficiently utilise the 3G spectrum resources to drive ubiquitous broadband availability across the entire country, four years after the commercial roll-out of 3G (Third Generation) services into Nigeria’s telecommunications market, industry analysts have said.
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) awarded 3G licenses to MTN Nigeria, Airtel and Globacom in March 2007, and to Etisalat Nigeria in December 2010.
Four years down the line, operators are yet to make use of the frequency spectrum allocation to further drive broadband penetration in the country. They noted that the unavailability of requisite frequency spectrum was slowing down broadband internet network expansion plans, especially in the rural communities.
The industry report by Business Monitor International (BMI) assessed by THISDAY, showed that Nigeria had about 3.2 million mobile customers with 3G-enabled handsets as at December 2010, which represented about 3.7 percent of the total mobile users in the country.
The current estimates revealed that Nigeria had little above 6 million 3G subscribers as at December 2011.
This figure, according to analysts, is equivalent to about 6.4 percent of the total mobile subscriber base and also indicative of operators’ defective strategies in terms of proficiently driving up utilisation of the 3G spectrum.
According to the report titled: ‘Nigeria Telecommunications Report Q2 2012’, the number of 3G subscribers grew by 113 percent from approximately 1.5 million at the end of 2009 and 950, 000 at the end of 2008.
The report also stated that the availability of low-cost smartphones and lower data tariffs were major factors driving uptake of 3G services in Nigeria because of cost effective international bandwidth from the growing number of submarine cables systems on the shores.
BMI expects the number of 3G customers to rise to about 9.2 million by the end of 2012, and 24.386 million by the end of 2016.
At this point, the 3G market will account for nearly 19 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
The General Counsel for MainOne Cable Company, Mr. Kazeem Oladipo has however stated that telecoms operators have not done much with the 3G spretum allocated to them.
He said: “Anytime, I hear a clamour for more frequency spectrum allocation, I usually wonder what the telecoms operators have done with the bands allocated to them.
“Look at the 3G spectrum, operators in Nigeria have not done much with it from a broadband penetration standpoint. They have not made the most efficient use of these spectrum frequencies to even justify further allocation. In all honesty, they are not utilising the 3G spectrum efficiently,” he said.
On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Mr. Eugene Juwah, had recently said that Nigeria has offered more frequencies than any other country in the world with very little impact in terms of broadband penetration.
According to Juwah, “If you check frequencies in 2.1 GHz (3G), operators have not done much with these scarce frequency resources.
He said, “We decided at the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) that the 2.6GHz, which is the spectrum telecoms providers are calling for, will be properly planned with the broadcast industry, re-farmed before allocating it to them.”