By Emma Okonji
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has restated the importance of the planned auction of the 2.6GHz spectrum frequency, insisting that it will enhance the availability of spectrum for speedy deployment of broadband services across the country.
The commission said the spectrum would also create opportunity for the deployment of advanced wireless 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology services, as well as standardisation and harmonisation of telecoms operations.
Director, Spectrum Administration at NCC, Mr. Austin Nwaulune, who made the disclosure during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos recently, said the invaluable importance of the 2.6 GHz spectrum to broadband development and penetration, compelled NCC to release an Information Memorandum (IM) on the auction of the spectrum, which is fixed for May 16 this year in Abuja.
Stating the pre-qualification process to participate for the bid process, Nwaulune said applicants would not have to be licensed network operators in Nigeria, provided such applicant must be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The applicant must transfer an Intention-to-Bid Deposit (IBD), which is 10 per cent of the total amount for the number of lots the bidder intends to acquire from among the available 14 lots that the NCC is auctioning. For instance, the reserve price for each lot of the 2.6GHz spectrum is $16 million and if an operator indicates to acquire six lots, the operator will pay 10 per cent of the total $96 million for the six lots, which is $9.6 million, as part of the pre-qualification process.
The bidders must not have any relationship among themselves and a relationship is established when a bidder has directly or indirectly, an ownership stake of 10 per cent or more in another bidder. The spectrum will be offered on a technology neutral basis and shall be used for national rollout.
Time lag for rollout for those that will emerge winners, is put at one year and any operator that fails to rollout within the one year time frame, will automatically lose the licence.
According to Nwaulune, the licence is for 10 years and the auction will be carried out in an ascending clock auction.
The auction process commenced with the publication of the resumption of the 2.6GHz frequency spectrum auction notice on February 25, 2016, which is followed by a period for the submission of questions to the commission, relating directly to the licensing process defined in the information memorandum, and the period elapses by April 16. By April 29, the application closes, to give room for the auction committee to scrutinise the applications and inform those that will qualify for the bidding exercise. By June 10, 2016, spectrum winners must have made full payment for the licence won, and by June 13, 2016, the NCC will announce the winners.
The spectrum is considered to be a valuable national resource for which commercial opportunities exist.
For the rollout of services, NCC intends to follow the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recommendation setting aside spectrum in the 2.6GHz band for the provision of advanced wireless broadband services.