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NCC postpones 2.6 GHz spectrum auction again

By on March 30, 2015

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has again postponed the planned auction of the country’s 2.6 GigaHertz frequency; making it the second postponement of the same spectrum within a space of four months.

The Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who announced the postponement in a statement posted on the Commission’s website, said the postponement is ‘till further notice’.

According to Juwah, “The NCC, on behalf of the Federal Government, regrets to inform parties interested in participating in the auction of frequency spectrum licences in the 2.6GHz band that it has decided to postpone the process of the auction until further notice. By this announcement, the 2.6GHz indicative auction timetable is suspended.”

Although Juwah cited administrative reason for the first postponement, he however did not give any reason for the second postponement, giving room for speculations among industry stakeholders who are not happy with the development.

NCC had in November last year, announced for the first time, its intention to auction the 2.6GHz spectrum band on a technology-neutral basis and for rollout basis, using a global model called the ‘Ascending Clock’ model, but few weeks into the announcement, it postponed the December date that was initially fixed for the bid opening and eventual auction of the spectrum, citing administrative constraints for the postponement.

Few weeks ago, NCC announced its intention to resume the auction and went ahead to release the timetable for the auction as well as Information Memorandum (IM) guiding the resumed spectrum sale.

Industry stakeholders were however shocked at the weekend when they were informed of another postponement of the same 2.6GHz spectrum band, without stating the reason for the second postponement.

According to the memorandum released on 2.6GHz spectrum auction, before the second postponement, the Commission decided to adopt for the licensing of 2×70 MHz paired spectrum available in the 2.6GHz band. The IM also provided information on the Nigerian telecommunications market, details of the spectrum to be made available, pre-qualification process, the auction process and indicative timetable among others.

The reserved price for the 2.6GHz spectrum was pegged at $16 million for a slot of 2×5 MHz.
At the end of the auction, each winning licencee will be issued a National Spectrum Licence for 10 years and will also qualify for a Unified Access Service Licence (UASL).

The memorandum stated that “on completion of the auction process, the Commission will issue each winner a 10 year National Spectrum Licence on a state by state basis and the Federal Capital Territory. Each winner who does not currently hold a Unified Access Service License (UASL), which is the operational licence, will be issued one at an additional fee of N374.6 million.”
The auction exercise was billed to hold in Abuja from May 4, 2015.

Director, Spectrum Administration of NCC, Austin Nwaulune, had said the 2.6GHz spectrum has been influenced by the need to open up the space for the delivery of present and future generations of broadband services to subscribers in consonance with the Nigerian National Broadband Plan of 2013-2018. He noted that the spectrum band is key for both new entrants and incumbent operators.

“The Commission arrived at this after wide consultations with relevant industry stakeholders to determine the best way to issue the spectrum,” Nwaulune said.

According to him, NCC opted for the auction exercise for most of its spectrum sales because it is an efficient way to assign scarce spectrum resources, and a better approach to manage competition.