EMEKA AGINAM, Vanguard
MARCH 13, 2013
At the just concluded stakeholders' forum on the best option for licensing the remaining slot on the 2.3GHz band held last week in Lagos, major internet service providers in the country including Mobitel, Spectranet and Multi-Links who rejected the plan by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to auction the 2.3GHz frequency band most commonly used for broadband wireless commercial service delivery said it was unfair competition.
The regulatory authority, NCC had invited operators to express their views on auctioning of 30 MHz Bandwidth in 2.3 GHz spectrum and allocating total guard band of 10 MHz for inter-operator and inter-band separation. Meanwhile, NCC had in advertisement categorically announced to auction 1Ã—30 MHz to one new operator.
However, the operators pointed out that licensing another operator on 2.3GHz will not be in the interest of the country.
Although Mobitel, Spectranet and DoPC are already sitting on 20MHz each of the 2.3GHz band, leaving 40MHz open for licensing, majority of the operators further argued that technical and operational problems which are inherent in the Nigerian market would not justify any plan to auction the available 40MHz to a fourth operator.
Accordingly, Qalcomm and Huawei in their input noted that there are alternative frequency planning schemes that may help service providers to optimize the available frequency resources.
In his presentation on behalf of Mobitel, Spectratnet and DoPC, Atul Ojiha, chief operating officer, Spectranet without mincing words told NCC to allot 10MHz extra each to the three existing operators that had expressed willingness to negotiate and pay for the additional spectrum frequency.
He told the gathering that using 10 MHz to provide for 5 Guard bands has no meaning as each Guard band will be 2 MHz. According to him, end of 2.3 GHz band would require larger guard band due to uncontrolled emissions in 2.4 GHz.
He further argued that the proposed sale of 30 MHz to one prospective bidder compared to 20 MHz to the existing operators was totally unfair and lessens the competition, adding that the communication regulations do not allow undue advantage and lessening of competition.
"One operator has extra infrastructure like International Carrier's license, as well as metro & national long distance fiber owner ship leading to cross subsidy on ISP business creating unfair competitive advantages. Uneven frequency allocation between GSM & CDMA played a vital role for CDMA operator's failure, though there are other additional reasons. It is safe to assume that all future spectrum allocations shall provide the adequate guard band.This will lead to uneven playing field in data access network," he said.
While additional spectrum allocations is immediate requirement to cope with interference & throughput, the operators according to Ojiha suggested that 2.3GHz Spectrum should be increased from 20 MHz to 30 MHz for existing three operators, adding that guard band of 10 MHz between 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz should be provided.
"Existing operators should adjust TDD ratio synchronization, provided the allocation is increases from 20 MHz to 30 MHz to manage throughput degradation and interference," he said.
Agreeing with Ojiha, the Managing Director of Swift Networks, Charles Anudu, said that rather than complicating the challenges among ISPs by licensing a fourth operator on the 2.3GHz, the NCC should allocate the 30MHz of the remaining slot to the three existing operators.
"Our regulator should not multiply the misery in the segment of the IT industry. We cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. The more we continue to fragment the segment, the more miserable we will become," he said.
Similarly, Mobitel CEO, Mr. Johnson Salako while warning on the implication of auctioning additional slot on the band to a new operator, noted that it would compound the problems of the current operators.
"The 2.3GHz spectrum is not the only spectrum that can be used for broadband service. The NCC has said it will be licensing the 2.5GHz spectrum, which means that there are huge opportunities for anybody who requires spectrum, " he explained.
The EVC of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah had in his opening remarks said that the forum was in line with the commission's policy of participatory regulation. Juwah who was represented by Okechukwu Itanyi , NCC's Executive Commissioner , Stakeholder Management said that with global development centred on availability of broadband services, the Commission on a regular basis inundated with several requests for frequencies to deliver the services. This has posed severe challenges as the frequencies sought for are scarce.
"In no distant future, the industry predicts the development and indeed deployment of more spectral efficient technologies that would be able to deliver more with less Frequency Spectrum and also improve on interference mitigation techniques available for a harmonious and interference free coexistence" he said.