A Cross-Section of Dignitaries at the NCC Stakeholders' Consultative Forum on the Draft Information Memorandum for 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction, in Lagos

NCC’s policy engagement with stakeholders for quality consumer experience, says Danbatta

*Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Nigerian Communications Commission, says stakeholder consultation on draft Information Memorandum for 3.5GHz spectrum auction will ensure substantial network improvement, higher connection speed, capacity, and low-latency capabilities in the country’s telecoms ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In continuation of the Commission’s extensive consultations on the proposed deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) networks in the West African country, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FAEng., FRAES, FNIEEE, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has stressed the need to develop polices and guidelines in conjunction with stakeholders to deliver better quality of experience for all Nigerian consumers.

ConsumerConnect reports Prof. Danbatta stated this in his welcome address delivered virtually, to the ‘Stakeholders Consultative Forum on the Draft Information Memorandum for the 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction’, by the NCC, which held Thursday, November 4, 2021, in Ikeja, Lagos.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FAEng., FRAES, FNIEEE, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of NCC

The EVC/CEO of the Commission stated as a matter of tradition, institutionalised a formal policy of participatory regulation and the practice of industry-wide consultations in conducting its regulatory functions.

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Danbatta said: “As a world-class communications regulatory agency, we sincerely believe that our actions must be guided by decisions that take into cognizance the inputs from all stakeholders in the industry.

“Therefore, we seek your active participation in the deliberations that would follow towards the licensing of the 3.5GHz mid-band for the deployment of 5G services amongst others in Nigeria.”

Government policies and NCC’s robust implementation

When going down memory lane on the advancement of telecoma industry, Prof. Danbatta observed the Nigerian communications sector has witnessed major increase in competition driven by the Government’s liberalisation policies.

According to him, the regulatory Commission’s robust implementation of its initiatives and policies over the years has stimulated the growth and development of the sector.

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He described the communications market in the country as one of the biggest in Africa, and is also the largest contributor to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector of the Nigerian economy.

“The statistics are there for all to see. Nigeria has an estimated population of 214 million, with an average growth rate of 2.6% annually.

“Approximately 76.46% of the population is under the age of 35. In line with these demographic changes, Internet penetration grew from 3% in 2004 to 73.82% as of September, 2021, and broadband penetration increased from less than 10% in 2015 to 40.01% in September, 2021.”

L-R: Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director of Public Affairs; Barr. Adeleke Adewolu, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management at NCC; and another participant at the NCC Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum in Lagos

Arising from the significant growth of broadband penetration in Nigeria, which stands at 40.01 percent as of September 2021, it has become imperative for us to evolve to the next phase of global development of the sector, given the opportunities that are abound for all stakeholders in the industry and the economy at large.

Referencing how the global impact of the existing 4G technology about increase in mobile usage and network performance in the country, the NCC EVC/CEO said the 5G technology would leverage this momentum, bringing substantial network improvements, including higher connection speed, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities.

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In doing so, Danbatta noted it enables novel use cases and applications that will positively impact different sectors of the economy and improve efforts at achieving the Digital Economy objectives of the Federal Government as contained in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS 2020-2030) and Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025).

According to the EVC/CEO, 5G technology does not only offer enhanced broadband and ultra-reliable low latency communications, it also provides massive machine type communications, where lots of devices will seamlessly connect and interact independently with the Internet without human intervention.

It thus enables the country’s Smartcity initiatives while making Broadband use cases a reality.

Critical role of C-band for deployment of 5G services

Prof. Danbatta has also noted that given the importance of 5G technology and the critical role of Spectrum, the International Telecommunications Union Radio Communication Sector (ITU-R) conducted studies in its last two study cycles during the World Radio Communication Conferences of 2015 and 2019 (WRC-15 & WRC-19).

“The body identified Spectrum for 5G technology, including the 3.5GHz band, which stands out due to its excellent propagation characteristics which offer both capacity and coverage,” he stated.

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According to him, the Commission in line with its mandate as enshrined in the Nigerian Communication Act, 2003 and our Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) 2021-2025, has committed enormous resources to ensure harmonised Spectrum is secured and released in a timely manner for present and future deployment of services that will underpin the fourth industrial revolution, including International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT-2020) services.

Danbatta further said: “We have kept ourselves abreast of developments at international fora, including ITU-R study groups to enable the allocation of strategic Spectrum to IMT services especially IMT 2020 which has been in the front burner in the last two ITU-R study cycles.

“Through the collaborative efforts of the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) and Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited (NigComSat), the Commission was able to secure the necessary 3.4-3.9GHz C-band for deployment of 5G services in Nigeria.”

The C-band is globally accepted as the candidate of choice for 5G deployment due to its excellent propagation characteristics, stated he.

The telecoms regulatory Commission also appreciated Prof. Isa Ali Pantami, Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, for the role he played in ensuring the smooth allocation of this Spectrum to NCC among others.

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“Having put in these efforts and resources to secure amongst others the contiguous Spectrum in the 3.5GHz premium band (with about 70% of 5G global deployment so far), it has become imperative to immediately license the 3.5GHz band in Nigeria for the deployment of 5G services.

He as well stated that the Commission has developed a 5G policy plan, and through the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital economy, secured the approval of the Federal Government for the deployment of 5G in the countrt.

Besides, the Commission constituted a committee to auction some slots in the 3.5GHz band for the deployment of 5G services, according to Danbatta.

The NCC EVC/CEO said: “This Committee has since gone to work and developed a draft Information Memorandum (IM) for the Auction of the 3.5GHz band.

“As you may be aware, we published the draft IM on our Web site to enable our stakeholders peruse and make inputs and comments. We are here today, to deliberate on those areas you think may need improvements.

“It is expected that at the end of this forum, we all shall be part of the future in the management and utilisation of this resource in line with global best practices.”

Danbatta, therefore, assured all stakeholders, that the Commission would continue to develop polices and guidelines in conjunction with them in order to deliver better quality of experience for all Nigerian consumers.

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