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Endless wait for NCC’s 2.6MHz as MTN acquires last 4G spectrum in Ghana

Following the bidding process for Nigeria’s 2.6MHz frequency that powers 4G LTE rollout in 2016, only MTN Nigeria won six out of the 14 slots as other prospective bidders pulled out on grounds of high reserved price.

Since 2016 till date, the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had assured that it will without delay review the entire process and reconduct another bidding to sell off remaining eight slots.

Checks by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) weekend, showed that the agency may have dumped the process as it has not given any reason whatsoever on why the auctioning process suddenly went off its radar more than two years after the assurance.

Recall that BHIU is an independent business research arm and a separate division of Business Hilights Group that takes up contracts and investigative jobs for interested companies and agencies on critical issues that need guided decision in their businesses and operational procedures.

Efforts to get the views of top officials of the NCC weekend failed as nobody was willing to comment on the delays in auctioning both the 2.6MHz spectrum and other hanging frequencies in custody of the Commission till date contrary to earlier promises by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof Umar Danbatta in far away 2016.

Many of the senior officers at NCC said the Commission is yet to officially appoint a substantive Director, Corporate Affiars following last week’s retirement of Dr. Nnamdi Nwokike who had been on the position before now.

However in Ghana, Business Hilights Ghana Bureau chief reports that MTN Ghana is gearing up to acquire the two remaining 2x5MHz spectrum lots in the 800MHz band that were left after Vodafone Ghana bought one for $30 million December last year.

It was gathered weekend that the Corporate Services Executive at MTN, Robert Kuzoe had written to Adom News in response to a questionnaire, saying “MTN intends to acquire this remaining spectrum to enable it to continue to give its customers an increasingly better experience on the network”.

It would be recalled that when National Communications Authority (NCA) auctioned three separate 2x5MHz spectrum lots in the 800MHz band, it excluded MTN from the tender process because MTN had already acquired a 2x10MHz lot in the same band in December 2015.

Though the NCA did indicate that other 800MHz spectrum holders would have the opportunity to buy the spectrum in case it was not allocated at the end of the process, at the close of the bid process, only Vodafone Ghana won one of the three spectrum lots and the two were left.

Kuzoe further averred that following Vodafone winning only one of the spectrum lots, “MTN enquired about the availability of the remaining spectrum.”

Continuing, he recalled that in January this year, MTN wrote to officially express its interest in acquiring the remaining unallocated two (2) lots 2x5MHz spectrum in the 800MHz band.

Recently, MTN announced that it had acquired the 2x15MHz spectrum lot in the 2600MHz band from Goldkey Telecoms, on the back of which it launched its 4G+ network with a stated download speed of up to 300 megabits/second.

This was introduced on the same day Vodafone Ghana launched its 4G services and also stated that some of its 4G sites had 4.5G networks.

Just like in Nigeria, industry observers in Ghana argued that even though NCA had long indicated that players like MTN would have the chance to acquire the unallocated 2×5MHz spectrum lots, some industry players believe that allowing a big player like MTN to acquire those two lots in addition to what it already has, would defeat the whole purpose of creating a level playing field, as promised by the NCA Boss Joe Anokye early 2018.

Experts are upbeat in Ghana that if MTN is able to acquire the remaining two 2x5MHz spectrum lots, it will stretch its lead in the 4G space even further, saying “It would mean that MTN would have 2x20MHz in the 800MHz band and 2x15MHz in the 2600MHz which makes Vodafone’s 2x5MHz relatively and completely insignificant in terms of speed and capacity.”