Airtel has emerged as the sole bidder in the auction of the 3.5GHz spectrum band to support 5G deployment in Nigeria.
The latest development brings the telecommunications giant closer to receiving the license to deploy the 5G network in Nigeria after MTN and Mafab communications.
According to a statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Reuben Mouka, seen by Technext, the commission hereby announced that only two companies expressed interest in the auction of the 3.5GHz Spectrum band by the close of business on Monday, December 5, 2022.
The two companies are; Airtel Networks Limited (Airtel) and Standard Network and Communications Limited (Standard Network).
However, Airtel emerged as the sole bidder having been the only one to pay the Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM). On the other hand, Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by twelve (12) working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable.
Having met all the provisions in the IM, Airtel, therefore, emerged as the sole Bidder.
Consequently, there shall be no further bidding and the Commission will proceed to the Assignment Stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process.
Airtel’s previous bids
Last month, The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) declined the request of Airtel Africa to secure a slot of the 3.5GHz Spectrum for the sum of $273.6 million, the price the agency sold the last 2 slots at the 5G auction in November. 2021.
At the time, the NCC justified its decision, citing section 124 of the Nigerian Communications Act, which already set out the process to assign licences.
Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at NCC, was quoted to have said: “Our reserve price was set after necessary benchmarking. We arrived at some idea of what the price should be. The auction determined what the actual price should be. If we have only one party interested that will determine the price. If the reserve price throws up a higher price, that new price becomes the new price.”
In 2021, Airtel took part in the 5G auction but failed to secure the license after losing to Mafab Communications and MTN Nigeria, both of which bid $273.60 million to surpass Airtel’s final price of $270 million.
Segun Ogunsanya, CEO of Airtel Africa, had said that the telco pulled out of the bid because it wanted to monitor the market and explore affordable 5G services to meet the broadband demands of its subscribers.
After losing the 5G licence in Nigeria, Airtel acquired additional spectrum in Kenya at $40 million to extend its operations and enable its 5G rollout plans in the East African country.
5G deployment in Nigeria
Earlier in the year, the Federal Government announced a national policy on the successful implementation of 5G, tagged “Ascertaining Full readiness to make 5G Work in Nigeria.”
The regulator had earlier announced it would auction 2 additional 3.5GHz Spectrum band licenses before the end of 2022 to boost the deployment of Fifth Generation services in Nigeria.
In May, the NCC issued letters of 5G license awards to MTN and Mafab Communications after the companies won the 3.5GHz spectrum auction conducted by the Commission in December last year.
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