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5G: NCC Carries out Successful Mock Auction of 3.5 GHz Spectrum

…Sets Stage for Main Auction on Monday

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has successfully carried out a mock session for the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum auction for the deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) network in the country.

The simulated auction, which took place on Friday, December 10, 2021 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, was preparatory to the main auction scheduled to take place on Monday, December 13, 2021 at same venue.

The conduct of the simulation exercise was in line with the requirements stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) for 3.5 GHz spectrum auction. The IM is a document that defines the process for the licensing of the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, earlier published on the Commission’s website at the inception of the auction process.

Using the Ascending Clock Auction System for the mock session, the three qualified bidders for the 3.5 GHz spectrum, namely MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications Ltd, and Airtel Networks Ltd, participated in the software-based simulated auction exercise.

The mock auction was witnessed by the Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande; the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta; Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Ubale Maska and the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu.

Others, who witnessed the mock auction include representatives from the bidding companies, senior management staff from relevant departments of the Commission, technical consultants, software consultants, legal consultants and other external observers.

Following the successful mock auction, the stage is set for the Commission to license two slots in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, expected to be picked by successful bidders at the end of the Main Auction on Monday, December 13, 2021.

The auction on Monday will mark a turning point in Nigeria’s determination to harness the benefits of 5G for the nation’s socio-economic growth, as concrete roll-out of 5G commences in 2022.

In a brief remark at the Mock Auction, Danbatta said the Commission had taken all necessary steps to ensure due diligence on the credibility of the consultants and to safeguard the integrity of the software solution being used to carry out the implementation of this historic national assignment.

“This is consistent with the open, credible transparent and fair manner by which the Commission is known to have conducted previous auction processes, which have been locally and globally applauded,” Danbatta said.

In order to ensure a fail-proof process, the Commission also carried out a simulation of the manual process of the auction, aside the electronic mock. This is to ensure that bidders are also familiar with the manual auction in case of any circumstances on the Main Auction Day that may warrant a need to switch to the Manual Auction. It is pertinent to note that the two forms – electronic and manual – are clearly stated in the IM and they follow the same process.

Representatives of the bidding companies, the Commission, the consultants and other observers at the Mock Auction expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the simulation exercise, which also provided opportunity for the Commission to perfect the auction  process ahead of the Main Auction.

The Commission had commenced the process for the auction of the 5G spectrum in the last quarter of the 2021 and had, since then, carried out a number of activities ahead of the Main Auction.

October 7, 2021, the Commission had published the Draft Information Memorandum (IM) on the auction of the 5G spectrum on its website (www.ncc.gov.ng) and issued a public notice in major channels, including print, electronic, and new digital media. Comments on the draft IM were received by the Commission up until October 28, 2021.

On November 3, 2021, the Commission held a stakeholders’ engagement forum in Lagos at which comments received from a broad segment of stakeholders, including the major operators, were exhaustively discussed and considered.

On November 10, 2021, the Commission published the Final IM, and Stakeholders’ comments thereon on its website and the national dailies, and set the deadline for the submission of bids on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.

As a responsive regulator, the Commission also proceeded to accommodate concerns raised by some stakeholders, due to social disruptions, and extended the date for submission of the bidding applications to Wednesday, November 24, 2021 to Monday, November 29, 2021.

On December 1, 2021, the NCC announced the three companies – MTN Nigeria Limited, Mafab Communications Ltd, and Airtel Networks Ltd – as having successfully submitted their bids in line with the requirements of the IM.

The Commission therefore wishes to thank all stakeholders for all the support, collaboration and partnership they have offered to get to this stage, and implores all stakeholders not to rest on their oars until the bidding processes are concluded successfully. Thereafter, the Commission, as it has now become its culture, will rally stakeholders into the next phase of the implementation of the 5G policy.

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