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Trouble looms between NCC, NBC over how MTN’ll use N34bn broadcast frequency

Serious indications have emerged showing that the original plan of the leading telecoms services provider, MTN Nigeria in buying over a controversial N34bn 700 MHz broadcast frequency is now in danger.

This is based on the fact that the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) has decided that MTN should retain the frequency it acquired from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), but must use same for telecommunications services rather than broadcast services.

This was recently revealed by Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Danbatta in Abuja.

Though efforts to reach the Director General of NBC, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu for comments failed as at press time, Business Hilights can recall that the South African telecom major, MTN had acquired the licence solely for the sake of providing digital-terrestrial pay TV services in Nigeria.

The former DG of NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba, had on the approval of the then President Goodluck Jonathan to run the clean deal on the ground to raise the much needed funds to fast track the nation’s drive to meeting deadline for the Digital Switch over (DSO) in 2015.

According the then leadership of NBC under Mr. Mba, the agency averred that the MTN deal would provide just under 50% of the budget to finance digital switchover. According to the Commission, the spectrum sold was “lying fallow”.

Mba had made it clear during a Press Conference in Lagos in September 2015 that “When it became obvious that government could not spare the money, and in order to avoid missing another deadline, we began to consider other options. Our broadcast frequency, which is to eventually form part of the digital dividend after the DSO, had portions of it lying fallow while our broadcasters were still using parts of it. We therefore proposed and got proper permission from government to license part of our spectrum lying fallow and to use the proceeds to finance the DSO”.

Continuing, he made it further clear that “I’m pleased to inform you that we have successfully licensed MTN Nigeria Ltd to use a part of the 700MHz to provide digital pay TV broadcasting services. We have thus raised N34billion, slightly less than 50% of our budget. I am pleased to inform you, also, that through this singular move, Nigeria has once again pointed the way for other African countries struggling with the effort of finding financing for their own digital switchover programmes.”

However, when the new DG of NBC came onboard, he inherited the deal and continued to work with the understanding MTN who had earlier acquired Pay TV licence will go on with the provision of the service using the frequency.

Analysts believed that MTN using the frequency for what it was originally sold for will boost the ongoing DSO of the NBC and argued that the so called decision of the NFMC may be in utter variance to the spirit of the DSO campaign which is now at advanced stage.