After 11 rounds of bidding for two lots of 100MHz of the 3.5GHz spectrum for the Fifth Generation (5G) network, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications, on Tuesday emerged winners, with Airtel Telecommunications coming last.
The development is coming 20 years after Nigeria issued the first GSM licence for $285 million to MTN and Econet Wireless, now Airtel each. Going by the success of the 3.5GHz spectrum auction, the Federal Government, through Nigerian Communications Communication (NCC) will earn $546 million between now and February 2022.
Announcing the winners, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the three bidders battled all through to the main stage.
According to him, at the assignment stage, which is the second stage, MTN and Mafab Communications emerged winners.
He said the winners have between now and February 2022 to pay the bidding and winning price of $273.6 million into the coffers of the Federal Government.
Danbatta, who described the process, which started around 11:30 a.m. at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, and ended around 8:00 p.m., as very transparent, stressing the need for more investments in the telecoms sector.
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The auction, which began at $199.37 million as against the reserve price of $197.4 million, with each auction in the first six rounds, lasted 20 minutes and none of the bidders backed down as the price steadily moved up using the ascending clock auction format. In the second five rounds, the bidders were given 10 minutes each to put up their bids.
At the end of 11 rounds, which ended at 7:20 p.m., the bid per slot was $275, 904,886.25.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, who flagged off the auction at around 11:00 a.m. waxed optimistic about the benefits 5G.
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Also, Prof. Adeolu Akande, Chairman, NCC Board and Danbatta addressed participants and observers on the imperative of the spectrum auction.
In his address, Pantami traced the journey from 2019 when 5G technology was tested in Lagos, Abuja and some other cities in Nigeria and found to be suitable.
He reminded the audience that the test was also followed by an investigation on claims that the technology had health dangers. He said the result of the investigation showed 5G had no health hazards.
He expressed optimism that by 2022 Nigeria will have the largest 5G coverage in Africa.
ALSO, Pantami said that as of last week, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) had issued 70 million National Identification Numbers (NIN) to qualified Nigerians.
He said following the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020 to identify all Nigerians because of escalating security challenges, the ministry moved and NIN enrolment started immediately.
“If you recall, we started around December 2020, and as of then, the figure was around 40 million. But as of today, and within a year, NIMC has raised that figure to 70 million. Meaning that within the last one year, about 30 million NIN have been issued to Nigerians.”
Pantami, while commending the NIMC management, disclosed that the 30 million NIN attainment was attained by the commission despite several challenges especially finance.
“No funding has been granted NIMC yet. Though President Buhari has approved major funding, it has not been released to NIMC. But I can assure you that it will be released soon,” he said.
IN a related development, 9mobile has reiterated its commitment to partner NIMC to ensure the effectiveness of the national identity management exercise.
The telco gave the assurance at a one-day stakeholder engagement workshop and capacity building interactive session organised in collaboration with NIMC in Abuja.
The workshop sought to examine capabilities and challenges in NIMC service delivery process and proffer solutions.
Delivering his remarks, Chief Executive Officer, Juergen Peschel, commended the management of NIMC for supporting the workshop to engage stakeholders in the industry.
He said: “9mobile will continue to play a pivotal role in the country’s national identity management enrollment scheme, especially in rural areas where we have the mandate to register 10 million individuals. To ensure that we meet up with the target, we are constantly expanding our capacity in terms of infrastructure and technology to ensure that all Nigerians are enrolled.”
Director of Sales, 9mobile, Oluwatosin Olulana, stressed the need for ongoing engagement with stakeholders to strengthen the nation’s identity management process.
He said: “9mobile will be sharing resources with NIMC to improve the process of service delivery. In addition, mobile connectivity will also be made available for the next six months to aid the virtual working process. We are currently arranging to provide up to 20Mbpsfiber connectivity for NIMC office use. We believe providing the necessary infrastructure will enable the commission to deliver on its mandate in the interest of the country.”
MEANWHILE, Pantami has called for the deployment of integrated digital technology and emergency management in tackling growing insecurity in the country.
Speaking at the maiden conference of the Abuja Chapter of Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the minister said: “It is quite clear that digital technology has a great role to play in national security in Nigeria. The growing importance of technology presents new opportunities to benefit society. Modern intelligence-gathering devices should be acquired and deployed to relevant law enforcement agencies to address insecurity adequately.”
Pantami, who was represented by Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Inuwa, said the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and its agencies are ready to support law enforcement agencies with all the technology required to boost their efforts.
On his part, Managing Director, Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Muhammad Bello, said the theme of the conference, ‘Digitisation as Enabler in Tackling Insecurity in Nigeria’, could not have come at a better time.
Represented by Executive Director, Finance and Accounts, Galaxy Backbone, Adamu Umar, the managing director said application of the traditional formulas have not yielded results, therefore ICT or digitisation tools should be deployed.
In his welcome address, NITRA President (Abuja Chapter), Blessing Olaifa, said the theme was chosen to draw the attention of state actors to digital platforms that could be leveraged to check banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and other criminal acts.
He also commended Pantami for initiating policies, which, according to him, are gradually changing the narrative.
Head, Corporate Communications of NIMC, Kayode Adegoke, said the best way to tackle insecurity is through technology, noting that the commission has keyed into the digitisation programme of government through SIM/NIN linkage.