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700MHz spectrum shouldn’t have been sold to MTN – NCC

By on January 4, 2016

Following the controversy trailing last year’s sale of the country’s 700MHz Spectrum for N34 billion to MTN Nigeria by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta, has said the spectrum should not have been sold by NBC because it is a telecommunication spectrum that is very important for broadband deployment.
He however said the commission would not join issues with the NBC over the sale of the spectrum, but rather allow the Frequency Management Council to handle the issue.
“NCC will not publicly engage NBC, even though it is under a different ministry, because we don’t think it is the right approach. The Frequency Management Council, which is a very important organ of government that has a representation from the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology as well as the Communication Technology Ministry, will look into the matter,” Danbatta said in a statement released by the NCC.
“We intend to avail ourselves of existing mechanism for arbitration and mediation through the Frequency Management Council,” he said.
Danbatta said the Commission was considering seeking new ways of moving MTN to the upper range of that frequency, which is not up to 700MHz.
“The upper range for broadcasting is 694MHz that will free the 700MHz spectrum for use to facilitate communication services. That is the approach we intend to adopt to resolve the matter and I have spoken with the NBC on this and they have expressed readiness to come to the Commission to talk about it so that we can together be able to fashion out a way forward that will be devoid of any acrimony or rancour which normal Nigerians are used to when issues of this nature come up,” Danbatta said.
NBC said last year that it continued to own the 700MHz Spectrum and that it sold it to MTN after a rigorous due process, including approval from the federal government and the frequency management council. The Director-General of NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba, had at that time clarified why NBC sold the spectrum to MTN, which was in the custody of NBC as at the time of sale.
According to Mba, the NBC needed money to finance the country’s Digital Switchover (DSO) project of migrating Nigeria from analogue television broadcasting to digital broadcasting by June 2017. The NBC had to seek approval from government to sell the spectrum in order to raise the money needed to finance the project and it got the nod of government to do so.
In spite of the explanation, some industry stakeholders are still bitter about the sale, insisting that it is not the right of NBC to auction national spectrum, but the prerogative of NCC to do so.
However, THISDAY checks revealed that the 700MHz is a broadcast spectrum and it is when NBC crosses to digital that more broadcast spectrums will be freed up for communication use.
MTN officials could not be reached for their reaction last night.