According to media reports, Airtel in Nigeria requests that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) – the telco industry regulator – administratively assign one of the remaining 3.5GHz spectrum lots at the reserve price of US$273.6 million.

The telecom operator made the request during a stakeholder event to review comments made to the NCC’s recently released Information Memorandum regarding the planned auction of two 3.5GHz spectrums for 5G deployment.

The telecom operator argued that getting one of the two 3.5GHz spectrums by administrative assignment would ensure it does not participate in another auction where the licence ultimately goes to the highest bidder.

Last year, Airtel participated in the first auction held in December, which saw MTN and Mafab Communications emerging as winners.

The telecom operator pointed out that its participation in the first auction made the process competitive because MTN and Mofab would have been issued the licences at the reserve price if there was no third bidder.

However, the NCC has turned down Airtel’s request, noting that though it was a fair request, the process has been set out, and the spectrum would be allocated through auction only.

At the last 5G spectrum auction, NCC fixed the reserve price at US$197.4 million. However, the price was moved to US$273.6 million, which was the final price paid by MTN and Mafab to acquire the licence. The US$273.6 million is now the reserve price for the remaining spectrum lots billed to be auctioned on December 19, 2022.

Speaking at the stakeholder’s forum, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, stated that though requests have been made for administrative assignment of the spectrum, the Commission would go by the law guiding its operations.

He said, “Following the successful auction of the initial two lots in December 2021, the Commission has received requests to administratively licence the available lots at the previous auction fee. However, the Commission, in line with its powers under the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, has decided to licence the available lots in the 3.5GHz band through the Auction Method, which is a transparent and efficient approach that can open up opportunities for new entrants as well as deepen competition in the industry.”

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