Telecommunications operators in Nigeria yesterday frowned at the federal government’s decision to peg the reserve bid price of 5G license at N75 billion (approximately $197.4million).
The opposition followed revelations by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, that the two spectrum slots reserved for 5G operations would be auctioned at N75 billion reserved price for each slot.
The Commission also announced that the auction for the slots will happen December 13, 2021.
NCC made the revelations at a stakeholders’ engagement forum on draft information memorandum for 3.5 Hgz Spectrum auction, it held at Mariot Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.
In spectrum auctioning, reserved price means the starting point at which those interested in acquiring the slots could bid.
Meanwhile, NCC has scheduled December 10 for the mock auction, while the actual auction is fixed for December 13, 2021.
Interested operators are expected to pay 10 per cent of the reserved price of $197.4 million to qualify to participate in the auction.
Kicking against the price, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Alton, Engineer Gbenga Adebayo, expressed concern that the price came a bit high for the operators, considering the huge investments they needed to make to ensure a robust 5G roll out in the country.
Adebayo believed that the best government should have done was to make the spectrum license as affordable as possible, so the country could maximize all the potentialities of 5G technology when rolled out.
He said: ” Let me say that the telcos will do everything possible to support the government to see out a successful auctioning and a smooth 5G roll out in the country.
” However, our concern is on the reserved price for the auction. That is where the issue is and that is where all the stakeholders should look into.”
Although Adebayo was seen as having spoken for all the telcos, being the leader of their umbrella body, individual companies who sent representatives to the forum, such as MTN, Airtel, Globacom, 9Mobile, Smile among others, told Vanguard that they had sent their concerns directly to the NCC on the high price of the license fee and other issues which they want the commission to look into.
The operators may be responding to concerns of the global body for all GSM companies, GSM Association, GSMA, which had earlier called on Nigeria to ensure its spectrum price was brought down to enable telcos roll out 5G services conveniently.
There is the belief that spectrum pricing in Nigeria is one of the highest in Africa.
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The reserved price for the GSM auction in 2001 was fixed at $100million and the operators ended up paying up to $285 million at the end of the auction.
The worries of telecom operators were responded to at the ongoing forum.
The stakeholders ‘forum holding in Lagos is part of activities lined up for implementation of the Fifth Generation (5G) Technology Deployment Plan in the country.
The forum will afford industry stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the draft Information Memorandum (IM) for the upcoming auction of the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band.
The Information Memorandum (IM) is a comprehensive document, which defines the process employed by the NCC for the auctioning of the 3.5GHz spectrum band.
It also provides information on the Nigerian telecommunications market, details of the spectrum to be made available, the pre-qualification process, the auction process as well as the indicative timetable.
It should be noted, however, that Nigeria is not the first country to put 5G for auction.
Several countries, including Germany, have auction 5G spectrum.
In Germany, for instance, four operators paid 6.55 billion EUR for the 5G spectrum, though Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Germany criticized the high prices of the country’s auction.