…Says inquiry on spectrum pricing ‘ll ensure fair, competitive market

… Sustains sector contribution to GDP

By Emmanuel Elebeke

In fulfillment of its commitment to put Nigeria on the front-line as a technology driven economy, the Executive Vice Chairman  of Nigerian  Communications Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta says the Commission has commenced the process of deployment of  Fifth Generation (5G) technology across the country.

The EVC dropped the hint on Thursday during the public inquiry on draft frequency spectrum (fees and pricing, and annual operating levy regulations held  in Abuja.

The move he said followed series of pre-trial roll out exercise by MTN and Airtel networks, which justified the Commission’s decision to commence the roll out plan across the nation.

He stated that the action is driving the provision of such ubiquitous services on making frequency spectrum available to its licensees, adding that the efficacy and reliability of these initiatives will be hinged on proper market valuation of the frequency spectrum and fair assessment of levies.

According to Danbatta, the move became imperative because ‘‘the global telecoms industry has seen an explosion in technologies and an attendant secondary reliance on different approaches to drive the best out of different frequency spectrum.’’

This he said has seen designation of several bands of frequency spectrum for communications services and  a key illustration is  the recent identification of some  spectrum  frequencies for 5G deployment.

 ‘‘The commission is conscious of the expectations and the need to ensure that all regulatory instrument are made ready  to  meet the challenges. This makes the review we are conducting today an important milestone in pushing the country to the front queue of this global effort.

 ‘‘Hence, we must be prepared on both ends of the  industry to prepare the country for these remarkable changes, while the licensees continue to invest in deployment, the Commission will sustain its drive by ensuring regulatory efficiency and excellence.’’

According to him, the Commission had crossed all the Ts and dot the Is and waiting for green light from the Federal government  to roll out the services soon.

He further explained that the Commission had already submitted the proposal to the federal government for approval since the prerogative lies solely with the Federal government to do so and would commence roll out as soon as it receives the green light.

Since the three frequency bands required for 5G coverage had been assigned for the deployment, Danbatta said that Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind by some other countries that have rolled out the services in line with the dynamics in the sector and demand for emerging technologies across the globe.

On the public inquiry, the NCC boss said it   reflects the commission’s strategic mission and version to ensure regulatory excellence through effective regulatory processes and also signposts the Commissions’ consultative approach to all its regulatory initiatives.

‘‘The regulation being reviewed  was vital to ensuring a fair and competitive market and also has impact on balancing the fluid communications market in Nigeria.

‘‘As the first instrument, the Annual Operating Levy Regulations, ensures that all licensees are properly and equitably assessed for the annual levy as well as meeting both statutory and regulatory expectations.  This review will bring the regulations in line with current realities and sustain the enviable contributions of the communications sector to the country’s DGP.

‘‘The second instrument, the Frequency Spectrum  Pricing Regulations, is a vehicle that enables  the Commission meet its  mandate of assigning  the scarce national resource in an equitable manner, also ensures that frequency spectrum are assigned and managed in a way that ensures fair pricing and efficient deployment of attendant services.

‘‘For NCC, the inquiry is precursor to the Commission’s current drive to ensure efficiency in spectrum management and  the unveiling of next generation services through varied enablers. It is in that regard that the Commission issued a  Spectrum Trading Guidelines in 2018, to ensure  frequency spectrum is readily  available to licensees through an effective process.’’

He  charged participants in the meeting to make their contributions freely and raise issues that will assist the Commission in developing and issuing regulatory  instruments that will continually contribute to the development of the industry and sustain its positive contributions to the nation’s economy, expressing hope that the review would ensure effective and efficient utilization of frequency spectrum and also ensure fair approach  to management of finance in the industry in the near future.

Earlier in her address, the Director Legal and Regulatory Services of the Commission, Ms. Josephine Amuwa   said the objective of the public inquiry was to secure the buy-in of all stakeholders and ensure the efficiency of the regulatory instruments when implemented.

She explained that the Commission decided to  review the Annual Operating Regulations 2014 and the  Frequency Pricing Regulations 2004  to ensure that it regulatory instruments issued  are  abreast with  developments in the industry.

According to Amuwa, the Annual Operating Levy Regulations review will look  at the  current  licensing structure and ensure that all the spectra of licensees  will be properly covered.

 Another key part o the review is  to clarify and clearly outline the benchmarks for assessment.

This she said will not only ensure regulatory certainty but further entrench transparency in the process.

On the other hand, the review of the second regulation, the Frequency Spectrum (Fees and Pricing) Regulations is expected to provide more guidelines on the parameter for determination of proper fees and pricing of spectrum.

This will also make adequate provisions for different spectrum licensing processes and their assessment parameters.

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