February 24, 2022

MAFAB finally pays license fee, raises hope of 5G deployment in Nigeria


By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor

The hope of having a robust 5G deployment in Nigeria was rekindled yesterday as MAFAB, the second winner of the 5G auction held by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, December 13, 2021, has finally paid the balance of its license fee.

Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta yesterday confirmed that MAFAB has finally complied on deadline day.

Vanguard broke the news on February 7, 2022, that the other winner, MTN Nigeria paid its own balance in January even though the commission refused to make the payment public.

Before Mafab’s payment, anxiety had started building among Information and Communications Technology, ICT industry stakeholders that Nigeria could suffer a stunted 5G growth if only MTN who had paid before the deadline would be the only telco ready to roll out 5G.

The fear was that based on the capital intensive nature of 5G deployment, MTN alone may not have all it takes to cover Nigeria with 5G services.

However, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed telecom operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, quickly dismissed the fears.

He told Vanguard exclusively that “our members are committed to rolling out 5G and every effort is being made in that regard and in line with the federal government’s 5G development agenda”

For meeting the payment deadline, Danbatta has commended the two companies for their commitment to 5G deployment drive through their private investments, which he said, was a demonstration of the licensees’ belief in the sound regulatory environment in the Nigerian telecommunications sector.

He said: “On behalf of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, the Board and Management of the NCC, I wish to congratulate the MTN and Mafab for this feat, as we look forward to accomplishing other deployment timelines in our 5G deployment roadmap, as articulated in the National Policy on 5G Networks for Nigeria’s Digital Economy.”

He also expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for its support and commitment to the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria which, he said, will bring substantial network improvements, including higher connection speed, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities to communications services in Nigeria.

The Commission published a Public Notice on its decision to award two lots of 100MHz Time Division Duplex (TDD) available in the 3.5 GHz band through an auction process to support the delivery of ubiquitous broadband services for the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria.

Subsequently, an Information Memorandum (IM) was issued on November 10, 2021, in which Bid Applications for the available spectrum lots were invited. By the deadline for receipt of applications on November 29, 2021, the Commission received applications from three licensed telecommunications companies, viz: Airtel Networks Limited, Mafab Communications Limited, and MTN Communications Nigeria Plc.

The Auction held successfully on Monday, December 13, 2021 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja with the three bidders competing for the available two lots in which the Commission adopted the Ascending Clock Auction format that ended after Round 11 and proceeded to the Assignment Stage.

In the auction, MTN and Mafab emerged provisional licence winners and arising from this, the winning bid price for the auction was put at $273.6 million for each lot of 100 MHz TDD. The Provisional licence winners were then directed to pay the Winning Bid Price less the Intention-to-Bid Deposit, by February 24, 2022.

However, aside from the $273.6 million payment, MTN paid an additional $15.9 million, being the bidding sum is offered at the assignment state of the spectrum auction, making it clinch its preferred Lot 1 (3500-3600 Megahertz-MHz) in the 3.5Ghz spectrum; while, Mafab Communications, which bided lower at the assignment stage, consequentially settled with Lot 2 (3700-3800Mhz) at no extra cost.

Confirming the payments by the two licensees, Danbatta said: “I wish to officially announce that NCC has received and confirmed payments from MTN and Mafab for their acquisition of 1 slot of 100Mhz each in the 3.5Ghz spectrum auction, which was successfully conducted by the Commission on December 13, 2021. They both met the deadline of February 24, 2022 as set by the Commission.