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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Broadcasters, NCC spoil for war over 2.5G


Broadcasters under the aegis of Microwave Multi-channels Distribution Systems (MMDS) operators in the country are spoiling for war with the telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), over the declaration of commercial frequency bands available for licensing by NCC, especially on 2.5G spectrum.

Even as NCC has announced plans to audit the frequency spectrum already occupied in the 2.5-2.7 Gega Hertz (GHz) and 2.3 GHz bands.

This is coming as MMDS operators, penultimate week raised alarm over NCC’s plans to auction the Enhanced Second Generation (2.5G) spectrum being occupied by most of its members nationwide.

According to the Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Dave Imoko, the commission intends to assign portions of the 2.5 – 2.7 and 2.3 GHz bands for commercial telecommunications use in the near future, following the formal release of the bands to the commission by the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC).

Consequently, he said, this authorization paves the way for authentication and obtaining of an accurate data on all service providers or users already licensed by both the NCC, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) or any other competent authority empowered by NFMC.

He, therefore, implored every operator on the affected frequency to provide details of their authorization to the commission for authentication and update.

“All operators or users of spectrum in the frequency range 2500-2690 MHz and 2300-2400 MHz are hereby directed to supply the following information in respect of their authorizations,” he stated in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online.

Mr. Imoko, also outlined relevant documents required for the current authentication exercise to include a photocopy of the letter of assignment, of which the originals could be sighted on demand; photocopy of receipts for payment of spectrum renewal fees for the past three years.

“Photocopy of receipts for payment of spectrum renewal fees for 2006, 2007 and 2008 or from the date of assignment if less than 3 years,” he declared, which could be sighted on demand as well.

Current occupants are further required to provide information on their operational status and states in operation in addition to the detailed contact address of head office or operational base.

These, must include the name of the company, street address, city and state, telephone numbers (fixed & mobile) as well as the electronic mailing (e-mail) address.

Equally, NCC demanded for the name, contact address, e-mail and telephone number(s) of official representative or contact person.

As said by him, the above information should be forwarded to the chief executive officer of the commission in Abuja on or before January 16, 2009.

Additionally, NCC declared its intention to commercialize the frequency bands that are available to prospective companies and investors in the industry nationwide.

Imoko gave the list of some available frequency bands which NCC plans to offer for auction to qualified investors to include the core Third Generation (3G) Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum band, namely in block B: 1912.5-1917.5 Mega Hertz (MHz) TDD, block D: 2010-2025MHz TDD and block F: 2155-2175MHz TDD.

He pointed out that on 2.3 GHz band, NCC intends to offer 2300 – 2320 MHz bands available nationwide, except in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt.

The contentious 2.5-2.7GHz Band in TDD cum Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) would be offered in the 2500-2690 Mega Hertz (MHz) available nationwide and presently being re-farmed from other services to telecommunications.

Equally, the 5.4 GHz band, that is 5470-5725 TDD, that are available nationwide, would be auctioned alongside the 1800 MHz band in the 1785-1805 TDD spectrum.

Imoko pointed out that the announcement is, in the mean time, mainly for the information of the public as more details about the qualifying conditions for participation in the assignment process will soon be published.

ITRealms Online recalls that NCC had in the past auctioned some spectrum including three carriers in the 3.75 MHz within the 800 MHz spectrum band, 3G licensing, Digital Mobile Licensing (DML) popular known as the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and Second National Operator (SNO)
However, preempting the possible conflict that may accompany the latest proposal by NCC, the MMDS operators, two weeks ago, warned on any attempt to recoup its members existing frequencies which are dominantly in the 2.5G.

Sounding the note of caution, MMDS operators, through the Vice president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and chief executive, Disc Communications Limited, Chief Bayo Banjo, said that 2.5G range of spectrum, have been designed for use of digital television broadcast as well as broadband provisioning, through deployment of various formats like the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) among other broadband deliveries.

MMDS operators who are predominantly providers of broadcasting services using the 2.5G licensed spectrum, also said relevant consultations were not carried out by NCC before the announcement, although ITRealms Online gathered that last weekend saw series of meetings in camera among stakeholders.

According to Banjo, non-consultation prior to the proclamation brings about illegality and detrimental to the growth of the nation, noting that 2.5G spectrum has been in use by them in the past 15 years, after dully licensed by NBC and approved by the National Frequency Management Commission.

He made it clear that same licenses were renewed early 2008 for another five years and fully paid for as required by law.

“We would like to take this seriously because some of us have seen officials of NCC snooping around licensed MMDS operators with their spectrum analyzers, to determine what spectrum is in use,” he said, stressing that over the years, MMDS operators had invested over $40 million on expansion programme and for ordering of equipment, explaining that the NBC had in the last two years, forced all operators to scrap their analogue systems and go digital.

“Across the nation, all MMDS operators have scraped their equipment, lost all subscribers and have had to start from scratch. We are presently building up our subscriber base and have ordered thousand of digital decoders which have been paid for. We have also ordered WIMAX equipment in order to migrate simultaneously to broadband Internet Protocol Tv (IPTV) broadcast,” Banjo noted.

The operators further wondered if MMDS operators are lesser Nigerians that they cannot provide bandwidth and do triple play to merit such action from NCC.
He explained that the 2.5G spectrum, is currently regarded as a medium that allows operators to bridge the gap among all the diverse ethnic groups in the country, insisting that it should not auctioned.

Noting that NCC has lots of telecommunication spectrums to play with including the 3.2G, 2.3G, which is the most developed WiMAX frequency with the highest penetration of broadband.

According to him, the MMDS operators find it strange that NCC is considering auctioning of the 2.5G spectrum.

He called on NCC to have a rethink, while calling on government to intervene as quickly as possible.


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