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Nigeria's tech regulator takes on unlicensed spectrum users

Nigeria’s tech regulator takes on unlicensed spectrum users

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is poised to clamp down heavily on telecoms companies it alleges are using unassigned spectrum illegally – specifically those using the 5.4GHz band (5.470-5.725 GHz spectrum frequency), claiming it is a licensed band in Nigeria.

NCC Head Umar Danbatta said the regulator has given these users 14 days to vacate the spectrum, a move said to be in reaction to the loss in revenue as a result of not having issued a license.

When MTN won the 2.6GHz spectrum, it reportedly paid a total sum of US$106 million for the spectrum; the commission also generated US$96 million for the sale of 70MHz license.

The commission also used the announcement to reveal the protocol for spectrum licensing which it said has not changed.

It referred the illegal users of the spectrum and interested parties to the detailed regulatory provisions for the deployment of services on the entire 5 GHz band contained in the Guidelines for deployment of broadband Services on the 5.2 – 5.9 GHz band.

At the expiration of the 14-day pre-enforcement notice, NCC said it would consider a range of possible actions.

"The Commission shall without further resources and upon expiration of the stipulated deadline commence appropriate enforcement action including but not limited to prosecution, fine and confiscation of equipment used in the illegal transmission," the NCC stated.

Spectrum auction stalled

While the NCC enjoined interested spectrum license applicants to formally apply, a review of spectrum auctioning section on the commission's website revealed that there is no current spectrum auction ongoing - indicating that spectrum cannot be allocated until there is a new call for bids.

This is believed to be because of reduced interest by bidders in the spectrum, many of whom ignored the last call for bids, and more attention being paid to the ongoing digital migration process.

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