Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has suspended the Spectrum Trading Guidelines 2018 for the telecommunications industry, a statement from the commission said wednesday.
NCC Board of Commissioners, who took the decision to suspend the spectrum trading guidelines at a recent meeting, has since informed all licensed telecommunications operators, prospective investors, industry stakeholders and the general public to that effect.
NCC had before 2018, auctioned spectrum licences to telecoms operators, which include 2.3GHz Spectrum, 2.6GHz Spectrum, Mobile Network Service Spectrum, Rural Telephony Spectrum, among others.
The different spectrum licences allow telecoms operators to roll out different telecoms services for national, state and regional purposes.
In 2018, NCC came up with some guidelines that would authorise the resale of such spectrum licence by the original owner to other interested telecoms operators who are in need of the licence, where the original owner of such licence is yet to roll out services with the spectrum licence.
According to NCC, the suspension of the 2018 trading guidelines would allow for fresh guidelines that would make it more flexible for operators to trade on, in line with the new National Broadband Plan (2020-2025).
THISDAY gathered that the implications for the suspension of the 2018 spectrum trading guidelines is that those that have already traded their unused spectrum would continue to enjoy the benefits from the resale of the spectrum, but going forward, no operator would be allowed to trade unused spectrum licences, until a new spectrum trading guideline is released by the NCC.
NCC Board of Commissioners is expected to come up with the new spectrum trading guidelines within the next three months.
Announcing the decision of the board in a statement yesterday in Abuja, NCC Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, said the board had earlier taken the decision for spectrum trading in response to telecommunications global dynamics as well as the efforts to optimally utilise and maximise the benefits of the spectrum scarce resource.
According to the statement, “spectrum is a scarce commodity, which when inefficiently utilised greatly, limits broadband coverage and speeds. The current Spectrum Trading Guidelines were developed in 2018 after industry-wide consultations and this instrument allows that the spectrum resource be traded on the secondary market through transfer, sharing or leasing upon satisfying stipulated regulatory conditions.
“The Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025 launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja in March 2020 requires that these guidelines be reviewed to ensure that unutilised spectrum is fairly traded and to facilitate rollout by other operators among others. This is to address the need for ubiquitous broadband deployment to accelerate penetration and access in line with the economic agenda of the federal government.
“In accordance with the NNBP 2020-2025, for optimal use of spectrum, licensees have the obligation of the ‘Use it or Lose it Policy’ because idle high demand spectrum does a disservice to poorly served populations and should be released for effective use as may be required to promote efficient use of assigned spectrum.
“The ‘Use it or Lose it’ rule should, therefore, apply in all instances where assigned spectrum is found to be non-utilised or underutilised and ensures the unutilised spectrum is fairly traded to facilitate rollout by other operators.
“In response to the need for the review of these guidelines as highlighted above, and also following paragraph 12 of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines, 2018 which vests the commission with the right to review/vary and modify these guidelines from time to time as it may deem fit, the Spectrum Trading Guidelines 2018 application in Nigeria is hereby suspended until further notice, as declared by the board.”