By Hillary Asemota
In what telecommunications watchers and analysts viewed as another milestone in Nigeria’s trajectory towards an enhanced telcos space through 5G rollout, MTN and Mafab have emerged as winners of the 3.5GHz spectrum auction by raking in a combined sum of $547 million for the Federal Government through a keenly and transparently conducted bidding process by the Nigerian Communications Commission on Monday in Abuja.
With the auction concluded the stage is now been raved up for the deployment of 5G technology to support the delivery of ubiquitous broadband services across the country from January 2022.
MTN, Airtel and Mafab Communications Limited, were the 3 operators and contenders that qualified for the auction, having met the requirements stipulated in the information memorandum (IM) for the spectrum auction widely published by the Commission.
As part of the bidding process, the 3 companies had also participated in a mock auction which began on December 10, serving as precursor to the main auction which successfully held on Monday
In an exercise that saw demand outstrip supply, with Ascending Clock Auction System adopted by the commission, the three bidders participated in an intensely competitive auction bid.
In what transpired in the first round of the auction, the bid price was fixed at $199,374,000.00; $201,367,740.00 at second round; $204,388,356.10 at third round; $209,407,962.50 at fourth round and $215,782,901.30 at the fifth round.
The auction prices increased progressively to $224,414,217.43 at the sixth round; $231,146,643.96 at the seventh round; $240, 392,509.71 at the eighth round; $251, 210,172.65 at the ninth round; and $263,700,050.00 at the round 10 of the auction exercise.
The process eventually attained its peak at round 11 when the bid price graduated to $275,904,886.25 with all three bidders still actively participating.
The main stage of the auction, however, ended after the 11th round, with Airtel listing an exit bid of $270,000,000, while MTN posted an exit bid of $273,000,000 and Mafab posted (fill in with figures) giving way to the assignment stage.
It was this stage that Airtel decided to exit the race having posted a lower exit bid, inevitably leaving Mafab and MTN as winners of the two available lots.
Before the announcement of result, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Commission who is the auction overseer, Prof. Umar Danbatta, recalled the processes and activities leading to the successful conduct of the auction, said the NCC published a public notice on its decision to award two lots of 100-megahertz (MHz) 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 network in Nigeria.
“Subsequently, an Information Memorandum 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 telecoms companies, viz: Airtel Networks Limited, Mafab Communications Limited and MTN Communications Nigeria Limited.
“The auction was held successfully today, Monday, December 13, 2021 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja with the three bidders competing for the available two slots. The commission adopted the Ascending Clock Auction format which ended after round 11 and proceeded to the assignment stage. It is my pleasure to announce that at the end of the auction, Mafab Communications Limited and MTN Communications Nigeria Limited emerged as provisional licence winners,” he said.
The ncc boss said that the winning bid price for the auction is $273,600,000 for each lot of 100 MHz TDD and the provisional winners are expected to pay the Winning bid price, less the Intention-to-Bid Deposit, by February 24, 2022.
According to him, the auction process was efficient, fair, credible, well-organised and transparent and was designed to deliver the ideal outcome.
Danbatta, added that the strongest bidders have emerged provisional winners, raising a substantial amount for the Federal Government.
While congratulating the MTN and Mafab, thanked government for its support and commitment to the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria, which, according to him, will revolutionalize and bring about substantial network improvements, including higher connection speed, mobility and capacity as well as low-latency capabilities to communications services in Nigeria.
Sequel to the successful auction by the two winners, Danbatta said in line with the processes outlined in the IM, the provisional winners have proceeded to the Assignment Stage.
In his remark, before the commencement of the process, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, who doubled as the chief host, Prof. Isa Pantami, underscored government’s commitment to driving the digital economy, commended the commission for its efforts towards implementing the 5G Deployment Plan for the country.
He expressed optimism that the dawn of 5G network in Nigeria will offer significant advantages over current technologies, some of which include much lower latency, higher bandwidth, greater device density, longer battery life for nodes, and greater network flexibility.
The Chairman, Board of Commissioners, Prof. Adeolu Akande, said that spectrum plays a strategic role in meeting the insatiable demand for advanced mobile data services as well as a new wave of wireless broadband such as remote object manipulation, industrial automation, virtual and augmented reality and next-generation connectivity for vehicles. He said the use cases will continue to increase the impact that mobile services have on societies and economies.
He commended the minister for his unflinching support, the board of commissioners, Management and staff of the NCC for the role they played in making the auction successful. He also thanked the bidders for believing in the Nigerian communications sector by their willingness to invest millions of dollars in the sector for the provision of 5G services. He said that the commission is committed to transparency and openness, which the auction represents.