A few days to the deployment of the Fifth-Generation (5G) network in Nigeria, investigations have shown that the licensees, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications, may not be ready to deploy the service from August 24, as a result of prevailing infrastructural and licensing challenges.
While MTN alleges to have commenced importing some of the equipment required for the service rollout through its vendor, Huawei, Mafab Communications’ plan to roll out within the specified date appears not feasible due to some infrastructure challenges.
Up till the time of this report, Mafab had yet to announce its deployment plans, lending credence to speculations that the firm may warehouse the 3.5GHz spectrum license and look for a buyer in the future to take it over at a premium.
It should be noted that in the telecoms industry, there is room for spectrum trading but subject to the approval of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
In the new rule set by NCC for spectrum trading unveiled last year, the Commission said, to trade, a seller must have held the spectrum for a minimum of one year, as against the previous requirement of two years. Both the seller and buyer must also have sound regulatory and financial standing with the Commission for a minimum of three years successively before their engagement.
It should be noted that there had been cases of spectrum trading in the industry. For instance, in 2010, Etisalat purchased Alheri Mobile Services Limited, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Dangote Group in Lagos. Alheri Mobile is a holder of a 3G license for Nigeria. The acquisition enabled Etisalat Nigeria to have access to full use of a 3G license in line with the other three GSM operators in the country.
While both MTN and Mafab Communications had coughed out about $550 million for the 3.5GHz spectrum licenses after the December 13, 2021 auction conducted by NCC in Abuja, they are required to launch the service from August 24, according to the telecoms regulator.