Nigeria inches close to the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) network in the country with the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta inaugurating an 18-member Committee on the spectrum auction.
The move is said to be sequel to a clean bill of health given to the 5G technology by the Senate after its investigative hearing. The NCC took a major proactive regulatory step by inaugurating a committee with NCC’s executive commissioner, technical services, Ubale Maska as auction adviser while the director, spectrum administration, NCC, Oluwatoyin Asaju, is the committee chairman. The committee has the mandate to develop the Information Memorandum (IM) for the auction of 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band which will be used for early deployment of 5G services in the country.
At the inauguration of the committee, Danbatta said, apart from developing the IM for auctioning of C-band spectrum for 5G deployment, the terms of reference (ToR) of the committee included the development of an award process to be used pursuant to which the grant of spectrum licences may be made.
The Information Memorandum (IM) defines the process that the commission has decided to adopt for the auctioning of the 3.5GHz spectrum band. It will provide information on the Nigerian telecommunications market, details of the spectrum to be made available, the pre-qualification process, the auction process and indicative timetable.
Other ToRs reeled out for the committee by Danbatta are the auctioning of the C-band spectrum for 5G deployment in the country in line with the award process as well as report regularly/fortnightly to the EVC through the office of the executive commissioner, technical services of the commission on the progress made by the committee.
While expressing delight at the current stage of 5G deployment process in the country, especially with respect to established mutual understanding among stakeholders that 5G service poses neither security nor health risk to users, Danbatta said the outcome of the work of the committee would be a major step towards the realisation of 5G services in Nigeria.
According to him, the NCC, in line with its mandate, has committed enormous resources to ensure harmonised spectrum is secured and released in a timely manner for present and future deployment of services that will underpin the fourth industrial revolution, including International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT-2020) services.
This, he said, was in recognition of relevant provisions of the Nigerian Communication Act (NCA-2003) and its strategic plan for effective communications resource management, facilitating broadband penetration and improving Quality of Service (QoS) among others.
The EVC further said the commission had ensured the participation of relevant staff in international fora, especially in the International Telecommunication Union Radio Telecommunication Sector (ITU-R) study groups, to enable the allocation of strategic spectrum to IMT services, especially IMT 2020, which, he said, had been in the front burner in the last two ITU-R study cycles towards World Radio Communication Conference (WRC-15 & WRC-19).
“Arising from these efforts, which include engagements with relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations during preparatory meetings at national, regional and continental levels, we have been able to secure harmonised frequencies for 5G deployment in Nigeria,” he said.
He, however, stated that where NCC desired premium spectrum like the 3.5GHz with good propagation characteristics suitable for capacity and coverage with good device ecosystem but did not have sufficient allocation, “we put in extra efforts and secured additional 160MHz in the 3.5GHz band by making huge commitment of resources to secure additional spectrum from Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited (NigComSat), culminating in a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NCC and NigComSat.
“Having put in these efforts and resources to secure, amongst others, contiguous Spectrum in a premium band like the 3.5GHz band that is being adopted as the best spectrum for early deployment of 5G with about 70 per cent of 5G global deployment so far, it has become imperative to immediately re-purpose the 3.5GHz band in Nigeria for auction in accordance with best practices.
In view of this, Danbatta said NCC management deemed it necessary to constitute the committee with clear ToRs, adding its members were expected to demonstrate strong commitment required to carry out these tasks and in a timely manner,” he said.
Meanwhile, Danbatta stated that even though some successful auctions had been conducted by the commission in the past, extra effort was required to ensure the success of the current exercise since the 5G technology is just being adopted around the globe.
He tasked the committee to consider benchmarking its activities against other countries where 5G has been successfully deployed through successful auction of relevant spectrum band like 3.5GHz.
In his remarks, Asaju amplified the EVC’s voice on the MoU with NigComSat, pointing out that the commission had, in line with the NCA- 2003, filled request for bulk allocation of 380 MHz bandwidth (3.52 – 3.9) GHz in the 3.5 GHz band from National Frequency Management Council (NFMC).
While assuring the EVC of the committee’s readiness to deliver on its ToR, Asaju said the outcome of the actions would, no doubt, form the basis and put NCC on right pedestal for 5G deployment in the country. In his remarks, Maska, the auction adviser, assured the EVC that the committee will deliver on its mandate.
A statement signed by the commission’s director of public affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, said the work of the committee was without prejudice to the approval of the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), which, he said, must be in place before 5G deployment could commence in the country.