Technology

December 8, 2022

Airtel emerges sole bidder of 3.5GHz spectrum auction

By Prince Osuagwu, (Hi-Tech Editor), Emmanuel Elebeke & Juliet Umeh 

Telecommunications operator Airtel Networks Limited has been named the sole bidder of the remaining 3.5GHz spectrum lot after circumstances made it unnecessary for the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC to carry out auction on the spectrum.

The commission has held a stakeholders meeting where it spelt out the Information Memorandum, IM on the availability of the spectrum lots and requested for bidders.

However, the commission yesterday revealed that two bidders, Airtel Networks and another operator, Network and Connections Limited, Standard Networks had indicated interest for the two additional lots but as at Monday December 5, 2022 deadline to pay the expression of interest fee, Standard Networks did not comply but rather applied for 12 working days extension.

The commission however said that since extension after deadline, for expression of interest was not supported by its guidelines, it turned down the request, leaving Airtel as the sole bidder.

According to NCC, Airtel has met all the provision in the information memorandum. A statement from the commission, signed by the Director Public Affairs, Mr Reuben Muoka said:  “The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) hereby announces that by the close of business on Monday, December 5, 2022, only two companies expressed interest in the auction of the 3.5GHz Spectrum band namely; Airtel Networks Limited (Airtel) and Standard Network & Connections Limited (Standard Network).

“However, only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas, Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by twelve (12) working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable.

“Having met all the provision in the IM, Airtel has, therefore, emerged as the sole Bidder. Consequently, there shall be no further bidding and the Commission will proceed to the Assignment Stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process,” the statement read.

NCC had early November announced availability of remaining lots of 2 x 100MHz in the 3.5GHz spectrum band, necessary for the deployment of 5G services in the country. In line with its participatory rule-making process for the communications sector, the commission decided to give stakeholders and interested parties an opportunity to review and comment on the Draft IM before the final document is published.

After the publication of the Information Memorandum, IM, which contained some of the observations of interested stakeholders, Airtel and one other operator indicated interest. But now, it appears only Airtel is in the race haven fulfilled all requirements while the other contender didn’t   meet up.

Recall that the first two lots auctioned in December 13 2021 were snatched by rival operators MTN and MAFAB  at $273.6m while Airtel dropped out of the bidding at $270m.