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MTN, Airtel qualify for 5G auction

Emeka Okoroanyanwu

The Nigerian Communications Commission has just announced that MTN Nigeria Plc, Mafab Communications Limited, and Airtel Networks Limited have qualified as approved bidders of the forthcoming 3.5 gigahertz spectrum auction for the deployment of Fifth-generation networks in the country.

In a statement, the commission said the qualified bidders have also met the Intention to Bid Deposit as outlined in the Information Memorandum.

By the announcement, the three organizations are the ones qualified to bid in the auction slated for December 13 by NCC.

NCC, announced two weeks ago that the two spectrum slots reserved for 5G operations in Nigeria would be auctioned on December 13, at $197.4 million or N75 billion reserved price each.

The rolling out of the 5G network will mean faster Internet services and a more efficient and reliable telecommunications services.

Some telecoms companies had then protested against the federal government’s decision to peg the reserve bid price of the 5G license at N75 billion

Despite the protest, NCC went ahead to ask interested operators to pay 10 per cent of the reserved price of $197.4 million to qualify to participate in the auction.

Chairman Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Alton, Engineer Gbenga Adebayo expressed his displeasure over the high reserve price saying it was a bit high for the operators considering the huge investments they needed to make to ensure a robust 5G roll out in the country.

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He said the government should have made the spectrum licence as affordable as possible so that the country will maximize all the potential of 5G technology when it is rolled out. Even with the high price, he said the telecommunications operators would do everything possible to support the government to see out a successful auctioning and a smooth 5G roll out in the country.

Other operators such as MTN, Airtel, Globacom, 9Mobile, Smile said they have expressed their reservations over the high auction price to the NCC. The global body for all GSM companies, GSM Association, GSMA had earlier called on Nigeria to ensure its spectrum price was brought down to enable telcos roll out 5G services conveniently.

They argued that spectrum pricing in Nigeria is one of the highest in Africa.  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.