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3.5Ghtz Spectrum Auction: NCC Denies Any “Hidden Agenda” Concerning Deadline Extension

          …… Qualifies 3 Bidders

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has reacted to a news item in Businessday newspapers of December 2,2021, stressing that that the extension of deadline for the submission of bids and initial bid deposit was done in the interest of all stakeholders and in response to their request, MTN inclusive.

The Commission stated that it became aware of the front page headline of the BusinessDay newspaper of Thursday, December 2, 2021 with the title, “How NCC moved 5G deadline after only MTN submitted bid,” in the course of its normal media review.

The statement stated further that the paper alleged “the Commission was forced to move the November 24 deadline for the submission of the bid and payment of the ten percent fee of $20 million after it emerged that only MTN Nigeria had complied with the requirement.”

“It is pertinent to state that the Nigerian Communications Commission maintains an unimpeachable record and reputation based on precedents of open and transparent spectrum auctions over the years, which had earned it both local and international recognition.

“For proper guidance of our stakeholders and the general public, it should be recalled that as part of the regulatory processes leading to the auction of the 3.5GHz spectrum, the Commission had carried out the following activities:

The regulator itemized the steps it had taken to ensure transparency and a level playing field to include exposure of the Draft Information Memorandum (IM) on the auction of the 5G spectrum on its website (www.ncc.gov.ng) and issuing of  a public notice in major media channels, including print, electronic and broadcast media on October 7,2021. Comments on the draft IM were received by the Commission up until October 28, 2021;

Hosting of a stakeholders’ engagement forum in Lagos on November 3 where comments received from a broad segment of stakeholders, including the major operators, were exhaustively discussed and considered;

 The publishing of  Final IM, and Stakeholders’ comments thereon on its website and national dailies on November 10 and setting the deadline for the submission of bids on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.

However, on November 23, 2021, just a day before the deadline for the submission of bids, Air Traffic Controllers went on strike, disrupting flights operations in Lagos.

“As a responsive regulator, and following concerns expressed by industry stakeholders and potential bidders for the 5G Spectrum, including MTN, about the possibility of meeting the deadline in light of the flight disruptions, the Commission, relying on the provision of the IM, announced an extension of the deadline from Wednesday, November 24, 2021 to Monday, November 29, 2021.

“Indeed, on November 23, 2021, MTN had communicated to the Commission via email, asserting its concerns about the air traffic controllers’ strike and how it is likely to impede timely submission of their bid.

“On December 1, 2021, the Commission announced that at the close of the bid submission date of November 29, 2021, three companies, namely MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications Ltd and Airtel Networks Ltd had successfully submitted their bids in line with the requirements of the IM.

▪ The public also needs to know that all three bidders are existing licensees of the Commission under different license categories.

“The Commission would like to state that the Business Day story is replete with misinformation, which is capable of misleading industry stakeholders, the general public, and undermining the integrity of the ongoing process for the auction of the 5G spectrum.

For instance, the publication alleged that Mafab Communications is a relatively unknown operator in the industry, suggesting that it was not eligible to bid for the spectrum. The IM has clearly stipulated that new entrants into the industry can participate in the bid and if they are successful, the Commission will issue the entity an operating license in line with the extant provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 and its licensing regulations.

“The Commission is consistently guided by its well-established principles of fairness, firmness and forthrightness and wishes to assure Nigerians that it is determined to ensure the successful implementation of the 5G Auction spectrum, which is set to take place on December 13, 2021

In a related development the Commission has announced that three telecoms companies have qualified as approved bidders of the forthcoming 3.5 gigahertz (Ghz) spectrum auction for the deployment of Fifth generation (5G) networks in the country.

The qualified bidders that have met the criteria for participation in the licensing process of 3.5Ghz spectrum, including payment of the stipulated Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as outlined in the Information Memorandum (IM), are include MTN Nigeria Plc., Mafab Communications Limited and Airtel Networks Limited.

Consequently, the stage is now set for the three companies to participate in the Main Auction as well as in the mandatory Mock Auction process, which will come as a precursor to the Main Auction.

The Commission has also reaffirmed the dates for the conduct of both the Mock Auction and the Main Auction. The Mock Auction is scheduled to hold on Friday, December 10, 2021 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja by 11:00 a.m., while the Main Auction will hold on Monday, December 13, 2021 at the same venue and same time.

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