Business Hilights
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Better to resolve InfraCos challenges than auditing spectrum licences, Minister told

Communications industry experts have called on the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isah Pantami to save his time in carrying out frequency audit on all the spectrum licences issued from inception till date and use it to find out and resolve the real challenges frustrating Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) in laying fibre optic cables and last miles after several years of accessing licences from the regulator, the NCC.

Industry observers had waited endlessly for the Minister to tilt his supervisory radar on the inability of Infraco licencees across all the regions to rollout services and resolve the issues as soon as possible.

Currently, there are Infracos whose licences has been moribund for more than three years due to their inability to navigate hard taxes imposed by states before they can begin to lay their optic fibre cables.

Both leading industry bodies including ALTON and ATCON had made frantic moves across the Government Houses of the 36 states of the federation, but still, issues of Right of Way (RoW) and rising number of frivolous taxes and levies imposed on telecom firms are bedeviling their efforts.

Accordingly, while advising the Minister to work closely with the NCC in getting every data he needs on frequency sales and audit, stakeholders’ are of the view that issues bordering InfraCos should be paramount in the mind of the Minister so as to drive the real digital economy which he has introduced to the Ministry’s scheme after all.

Business Hilights recalls that during his inaugural meeting as Chairman of the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) in Abuja, the Minister insisted on the frequency audit, saying the move is to determine the amount paid, appropriate usage, and others issues around such licences.

However, a visit to the NCC website (www.ncc.gov.ng) showed that under Technology Regulation Category, Specturm Administration is a clear sub-section which currently has up-to-date details on issues concerning Spectrum Utilisation Register/Templates

On the site, NCC said “As part of continuing efforts to provide efficient management of the radio frequency spectrum in Nigeria, the Commission is putting in place a modern Spectrum Management and Monitoring System (SMMS). As part of the SMMS implementation, detailed information is required about current and continuing utilisation of frequencies assigned to telecommunications operators, equipment operating on those frequencies and sites/locations where they are deployed, etc.”

“The information is required for creating a database on the utilization of frequencies and associated information that will be constantly updated. The records will provide an invaluable resource for facilitating resolution of interference spectrum planning, policy; and the overall spectrum management strategy of the Commission.

“All telecommunications operators are accordingly required to furnish the relevant information to the Commission according to the prescribed format and also update same periodically as specified by the Commission.

Further checks by Business Hilights on NCC’s website revealed that other related content including List of Authorized Space Stations in Nigeria, Spectrum Application Forms, Frequency Assignment Tables, Spectrum Utilisation Register/Templates, Spectrum Fees & Pricing, and Frequency Management Policy are very clear.

Weekend, stakeholders, who spoke to our correspondent on the Minister’s spectrum probe queried the essence of the wasteful exercise when all the data concerning spectrum licences and payments are with the regulating Commission, which has not said that it has issues with spectrum management before his appointment as the minister.

Addressing the press in October 2018, the NCC Director of Spectrum Administration, Austine Nwaulune, made it clear that the Commission has been doing everything regulatory to manage spectrum in the country efficiently and has earned for the country, over N400 billion from spectrum sales, funds, which have been subsequently transferred to government coffers.

Findings revealed that the NFMC was established by the Communications Act of 2003, which empowers the body, to coordinate and regulate spectrum license allocations, across regional and international borders.