NCC Plans Licensing of Additional InfraCos

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Emma Okonji

Following the licensing of two Infrastructure Companies (InfaCos) for Lagos and the North Central, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it is on the verge of licensing additional five InfraCos for other regions, in order to address telecoms infrastructural deficit in the country.

Director Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, who made the disclosure in Lagos recently, told THISDAY that the InfraCos were meant to rollout infrastructure for the deployment of broadband across the country, but explained that they may not be able to achieve the target with ease, if the commission does not provide enough spectrums that will support broadband deployment across the country.

“It is for this reason that NCC decided to license the 2.6GHz spectrum as well as the 23GHz, 38GHz and 42GHz spectrum bands. We are doing this in preparation for the licensing of InfraCos. After we must have licensed additional spectrums, we will then license the InfraCos and by that time we will be sure of enough spectrum availability that will support broadband deployment, since spectrum is the oxygen that sustains broadband deployment and penetration,” Ojobo said.

NCC has proposed that the timeline for the utilisation of the new 38GHz and 42GHz spectrums, will take effect between three and six months and would be awarded on a ‘first come-first serve’ basis.
The additional spectrum licenses, according to the NCC, would provide the much needed spectrum that will enable the InfraCos address the increasing demand for broadband services in the country.

According to Ojobo, “Spectrum is the oxygen that will give life to telecoms business. Today, data subscribers complain of slow internet speed and this is a function of insufficient spectrum bandwidth to drive traffic. NCC is therefore poised to ensure massive broadband infrastructure in the country, and the initiative is to ensure that the operators have enough spectrum to deploy broadband services in the country.”

He explained that the NCC had already licensed two InfraCos in the country and that MainOne was licenced for the Lagos region, while IHS was licensed for the North Central region, with plans to license additional five.
Ojobo said the commission is finalising the licensing process for the additional five InfraCos. Already, a committee has been set up to look at the conditions under which the remaining five InfraCos will operate and once that is finalised, we will licence them to operate in the remaining regions, but this must come after we have licensed more spectrums that are underway, Ojobo added.

Speaking on the challenges of the telecoms sector, Ojobo said deficit in telecoms infrastructure has remained the biggest challenge in the industry.

Broadband penetration is still at 10 per cent, but by the time additional InfraCos are licensed, bottlenecks on Right of Way (RoW) are removed and issues of delay in approvals for the deployment of telecoms facilities are reduced, then we will experience a massive buildout of telecoms infrastructure, which will improve service quality and also increase broadband penetration from its present 10 per cent penetration to an appreciable level of penetration, Ojobo said.

He frowned to a situation where agencies of government at the state level will shut down base stations and other telecoms infrastructure, in an attempt to regulate telecoms activities in their various states. He said such action would adversely affect telecoms development in the states, as well as delay economic growth in their respective states.