NCC suspends secondary spectrum trading

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), says it has suspended the Spectrum Trading Guidelines 2018 for the telecoms industry.

The guidelines were developed last year after industry-wide consultations and allowed spectrum resource to be traded on the secondary market through transfer, sharing or leasing upon satisfying stipulated regulatory conditions.

NCC said its Board of Commissioners took the decision at its meeting.

Telecoms operators that were, however, uncomfortable with the decision urged the regulator to come out with a policy that compels spectrum owners to use it or lose to the Commission or an alternative policy that will enhance optimal use of spectrum.

Its Public Affairs Director, Dr Henry Nkamadu, in a statement, said the board had earlier taken the spectrum trading option in response to global telecoms dynamics as well as efforts to optimally utilise and maximise the benefits of spectrum adjudged a scarce resource.

Spectrum is a scarce commodity which when inefficiently utilised greatly limits broadband coverage and speeds.

NCC said the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025 launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja in March requires that these guidelines be reviewed to ensure that idle spectrum is fairly traded to facilitate rollout by other operators, among others.

This is to address the need for ubiquitous broadband deployment to accelerate penetration and access in line with the economic agenda of the Federal Government.

“In accordance with the NNBP 2020-2025, for optimal use of spectrum, licensees have the obligation of the Use it or Lose It Policy because idle high demand spectrum does a disservice to poorly served populations and should be released for effective use as may be required to promote efficient use of assigned spectrum.

The ‘Use it or Lose it’ rule should therefore apply in all instances where assigned spectrum is found to be non-utilized or underutilized and ensures unutilised spectrum is fairly traded to facilitate rollout by other operators.

In response to the need for the review of these Guidelines as highlighted above, and also following Paragraph 12 of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines, 2018 which vests the Commission with the right to review/vary and modify these Guidelines from time to time as it may deem fit, the Spectrum Trading Guidelines 2018 application in Nigeria is hereby suspended until further notice, as declared by the Board,” Dr Nkemadu said.

The telecoms, operating under the auspices of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), said they needed further clarification from the regulator.

ATCON President Olusola Teniola stressed the importance of spectrum to the realization of the 70 per cent broadband target of the government.

He said the NCC should come out with alternatives to the policy if the targets are going to be realized.

The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said the development is new, stressing that the regulator would be engaged on the way forward.