Emma Okonji, This Day
March 7, 2013
Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who are operators in the wireless technology space, have warned that uneven distribution of frequency spectrum would continue to stifle broadband growth in the country.
Three operators gave the warning in Lagos, while responding to the planned auction of the remaining slot of 40 MHz spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency band by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). They told THISDAY that unless the NCC considered even distribution of the frequency spectrum, the issue of slow broadband penetration, which has bedevilled the broadband sector of the economy, would continue unabated.
NCC had in 2009, licensed part of the 2.3GHz frequency band in slots of 20 MHz each, among Mobitel, Spectranet and Direct on PC (DoPC), and kept 40MHz out of the available 100 MHz spectrum. The commission however plans to auction 30 MHz out of the remaining 40 MHz to a fourth operator, and use 10 MHz as guard band to check interference among the four operators.
Sensing danger in what NCC plans to do with the remaining slot of 40 MHz spectrum, Chief Operating Officer of Spectranet, Mr. Atul Ojha, spoke to THISDAY, shortly after he made a joint presentation for the three existing operators at a forum organised by NCC in Lagos to seek stakeholders' input in the matter.
According to him, "the three existing operators are currently using 20 MHz spectrum each with no guard band to check interference among operators. Therefore any attempt to licence a fourth operator with 30 MHz spectrum, will be unfair to the existing operators that already have 20 MHz spectrum each." He insisted that such action would cause uneven distribution of the spectrum and would eventually stifle competition and market growth.
He advised that NCC should rather share the 30 MHz spectrum among the three existing operators, to increase their spectrum to 30 MHz each, instead of licensing a fourth operator. He argued that the current allotment of 20 MHz spectrum for the three existing operators, was insufficient for expansion, and blamed the weak broadband penetration in the country on limited spectrum allotment, which he said, does not allow for expansion.
To buttress his argument, Ojha cited developed and developing countries of the world where operators have a minimum of 30 MHz spectrum, and warned that Nigeria should not be an exception, when government is projecting to position the country among the first 20 economies of the world by 2020.
Most stakeholders who spoke at the forum were of the opinion that NCC should forget about the issue of licensing a fourth operator, and concentrate on empowering the existing three, by sharing the remaining frequency slot among them, provided they are ready to pay for it.
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who was represented by the commission's Executive Director, Mrs. Lolia Emapkore, said the objective of the forum was to provide avenue for stakeholders and users of the 2.3 GHz band to discuss, technically criticise, exchange ideas and proffer options that would help the commission in arriving at a decision on the further licensing of the remaining 40 MHz spectrum for the benefit of all Nigerians.