MTN insists on 3.5GHz spectrum auction participation

MTN insists on 3.5GHz spectrum auction participation

Despite perceived fear of market dominance, MTN insists on 3.5GHz spectrum auction participation

Disregarding the perceived fears envisaged by the telecoms industry regulator and the industry stakeholders that MTN Nigeria may dominate the 5G space and create market monopoly for itself, if allowed to participate in the next 3.5GHz spectrum auction that is coming up on December 19, 2022, the telecom operator has said it is eligible to participate to clinch another 3.5GHz spectrum licence that will enable it expand its operations and 5G network rollout.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ forum organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Lagos, where NCC presented the draft Information Memorandum (IM) on the 3.5GHz spectrum auction to industry stakeholders, for their inputs before the final IM is published, the General Manager, Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Relations at MTN, Mr. Ikenna Ikeme, cited section 5.30 of the draft Information Memorandum, which discussed spectrum cap, and noted with concern, the provision of the draft IM which provides that: “the Commission places a cap of 100MHz as the maximum amount of spectrum that a licensee can acquire in the 3.5GHz band.”

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According to Ikeme, the IM clearly restricts operators who participated and won in the 2021 auction of spectrum in the 3.5GHz spectrum band from participating in future licensing processes. He however insisted that such winning bidder can also participate in the spectrum licensing processes, including the proposed auction of additional spectrum in the 3.5GHz spectrum band without any hindrance.

MTN, in its contribution to the draft IM, had said: “On the strength of the Commission’s assurances, MTN further participated in the Assignment Stage of the 2021 auction and paid and additional sum of N6.5 billion for a premium for its preference of the 3500 – 3600MHz spectrum lot (Lot B). The appeal of Lot B was its cost efficient deployment/roll-out properties as well as its positioning in the band which came with the potential for MTN to be able to subsequently bid for/possibly acquire a contiguous Lot A or Lot C and ultimately provide mutually beneficial efficiencies such as maximized network performances.”

MTN is of the view that if allowed to participate in the December 3.5GHz auction, it will further engender a more robust and highly competitive spectrum auction process.

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MTN therefore recommended that successful bidders in the prior auctions of spectrum in the 3.5GHz or indeed any other spectrum band, be allowed to participate in other spectrum auction in the country, in order to ensure that all spectrum are assigned and used efficiently.

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Responding, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at NCC, Ubale Maska, who noted MTN’s demand to participate in the next 3.5GHz spectrum for 5G rollout, said NCC would revisit the request and take a decision that would be of best interest to all operators and industry stakeholders. In his welcome address, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the consultation meeting was in tandem with the Commission’s strategy of consulting with stakeholders in carrying out its regulatory functions. 


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