Another Round of Licensing On The Horizon as NCC plans 7 InfraCos in 2014

Dr ernest juwah

A fresh round of licensing in Nigeria’s vibrant telecommunications market is expected to begin in December 2014, which would give birth to seven regionally-based infrastructure companies (InfraCos) as well as a new wireless last-mile operator, according to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), which said it had already drawn up key timelines and activities that would lead to the issuance of these licences.

The InfraCos are companies that will help in the deployment of critical Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures in the six geopolitical zones of the country towards accelerating broadband services deployment. Seven of these companies are expected to be licensed by the NCC.

“By January 2014, we would publish notice of expression of interest. By May, we would do the selections of the bidders and eventually by December 2014, we would award the InfraCos licences to the winners,” said Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, NCC, at the maiden edition of Telecoms Stakeholders’ Summit held in Lagos yesterday. He added that based on the timelines already drafted by the commission, the companies would be subjected to due diligence and NCC would be fair and transparent to all bidders.

The InfraCos are expected to be offered a one-off subsidy based on peculiarity of the business model and geographical coverage to better meet the NCC broadband objectives.

It would be recalled that in January 2001, the NCC had conducted an auction for Digital Mobile Licences (DML), which was acclaimed locally and internationally as one of the best in the world due to the high level of transparency associated with the exercise. The auction brought about the emergence of three mobile network operators (MNOs) – Econet Wireless (now Airtel), MTN and MTEL, a subsidiary of the incumbent operator, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

The InfraCos will roll out national fibre optic network for broadband under plans by the presidency to boost high speed internet services across the country, according to the regulator. There are more than 30,000 kilometres of domestic fibre optic cables to connect those international cables to more than 50 percent of the population. But, access to fibre to move bandwidth across the length and breadth of the country is so far discriminatory and inordinately expensive. With this new exercise, the NCC says it is taking a direct approach towards resolving Nigeria’s broadband internet quandary through a new industry structure based essentially on an open access model.

This recent move, according to the telecoms regulator, has become imperative in view of Nigeria’s slow and inordinately expensive access to internet services which exists in spite of the N478 billion investment in international bandwidth connectivity on the coastline.