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NCC set to auction 2.3GHz spectrum

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it is preparing to auction the two remaining slots in 2.3GHz spectrum band in order to enable the provision of last mile wireless access on a wholesale basis.

This move, according to the regulator, is in line with the commencement of the proposed unbundling of the country’s broadband infrastructure market, aimed at meeting Federal Government’s 80 percent broadband penetration target by 2017. This current industry direction has become imperative in view of the high cost of internet access and the prevalence of poor quality of service, according to the NCC.

The commission says this current situation is mainly attributed to the lack of a comprehensive domestic fibre backbone within the country connecting the local government areas ( LGAs) as well as widespread and expansive metropolitan fibre mesh network within the cities. It is estimated that about 56 percent of the 774 LGAs have backbone optic fibre.

“The presence of fibre in an LGA does not necessarily mean that high capacity transmission services or dark fibre services are available from existing operators at competitive prices,” Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, NCC, said at a high-powered meeting with chief executive officers of mobile networks on Tuesday.

In spite of the recent progress recorded in the telecoms industry, he said, fibre deployment in the country has been plagued by myriad of difficulties ranging from administrative procedures regarding right of way (RoW) permits to poor urban planning, adding that lack of infrastructure sharing has also hindered efficient internet access.

To address current challenges, the NCC is proposing an overhaul of the current industry structure which consists of integrated operators offering end-to-end services and long-distance operators offering wholesale services, amongst others. This structure, Juwah pointed out, has served the country well in terms of penetration of mobile services. But it has faced limitations in terms of increasing availability and penetration of high-speed broadband infrastructure. Teledensity has reached 88.3 percent as at July 2013. On the other hand, broadband penetration is still low at about 8 percent.

The proposed industry structure, based on Open Access, would see to the licensing of infrastructure companies (InfaCo) that are geographically focused. “These companies will provide wholesale Layer 2 transmission service on a non-discriminatory, open access, pre-regulated basis. InfaCos may provide Layer 1 (dark fibre) services on commercial basis,” he said.

These firms would also focus on the deployment of metropolitan fibre and provide transmission services available at access points (Fibre-to-the-Node or Neighbourhood-FTTN) to access seekers, according to the commission.

Also, a Wholesale Wireless Last Mile Provider will be licensed in coming months. “The available 2.3GHz spectrum licence will be auctioned to provide last-mile wireless access on a wholesale basis,” Juwah told CEOs of mobile networks, adding that last-mile connectivity would be deployed using wireless and fibre optic broadband.

“There will also be Retail Service Providers (RSP). The RSP are expected to ride on the wholesale last mile provider to offer services to homes, businesses, schools, etc,” the NCC boss stated, further explaining that the proposed industry structure was critical to meeting Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020 economic transformation blueprint.

He further gave cogent reasons for adopting this new industry structure. According to him, there is already the presence of substantial intercity backbone fibre infrastructure covering various trunk routes in the country. “It is more cost-effective for InfraCos to potentially leverage intercity layer 2 transmission services from existing operators rather than introduce another company constructing and owning intercity fibre,” he added

 

By: Ben Uzor Jr

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