Nigeria’s 5G license auction and the need for transparency

Imagine being able to download a full HD movie to your phone in seconds, even with a crowd of people using the same internet source.

Or maybe, if you are a software developer, how satisfying would it be for you to create a life changing app that can take flight without experiencing any connection issues or malfunctions?

All of this is possible not only because technology, as you know, is a tremendous catalyst, but because we live in a time of unprecedented technological advancement.

Billions of connected devices that can collect and share information in real time to reduce road accidents; With such predictive production lines that can prevent disruptions long before they happen, 5G technology is positioning itself as a tool that can help create a smarter, safer and more sustainable future. What country worthy of the name wouldn’t agree with that?

Anyway, I’ve often wondered what this 5G craze that has gripped Nigeria lately that has led to this kind of below-expected auction? It’s a country where 4G is so terrible that one wonders how people outside of key city centers even fare. Parts of the so-called city centers are also poorly served. I visited Abuja a few weeks ago and the internet service around the Maitama hotel where I stayed was so disappointing, not to mention that I tried two of the bigger providers.

At this point I have to clearly say it for the avoidance of doubt the majority of Nigerians have yet to taste real 4G so it is unfortunate that for some reason we were rushing into 5G which would require an entirely different ecosystem. and also quite complicated to deploy in the face of insecurity.

In this article, I will explore highlights of 5G technology and its benefits while commenting on the auction, as it is important that transparency is maintained at all times in an industry as important as this.

5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks. Up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G creates previously unimaginable opportunities for individuals, businesses and organizations.

Without a doubt, the technology boasts of faster connectivity speeds, ultra-low latency, and greater bandwidth, all intended to advance societies, transform industries, and dramatically improve everyday experiences. . In the developed countries of the world, services that we saw as futuristic, such as e-health, IoT-connected vehicles and traffic systems, and advanced mobile games in the cloud, are gradually being rolled out with great enthusiasm. of consumers.

Like other evolving nations, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has made efforts to expand broadband access for its citizens, especially the youth population. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, the government has an ambitious plan to reach a target of 90% by 2023 despite the current broadband penetration which is halfway to 45%. I know experts who disagree with these numbers, but that’s a discussion for another day.

In a recent high-profile bidding war between Nigeria’s major mobile network operators, the Nigeria Communications Commission has auctioned off the upcoming 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum for deployment in fifth-tier networks. generation (5G) in the country.

In a confusing turn of events, Mafab Communications Limited, a rather unknown organization that was registered in 2020 eliminated Airtel, a pan-African mobile operator, from the competition and even went so far as to give MTN a run for its money. Eventually, MTN and Mafab Communications Limited became the two winners of the $ 273 million 5G license.

While I applaud the efforts of bold Indigenous organizations to carve a big niche in the tech space, the truth is that transparency is important.

Here is what I am having trouble understanding. I know for a fact that Mafab Communications Limited, a branch of the Althani Group, was registered in July 2020 against MTN Nigeria Plc, which has been in existence for two decades. Immediately after the announcement, I did extensive research and social reengineering of this organization and found nothing, absolutely nothing other than a broken website. Even before the research, I got a number of calls from a number of senior Nigerians who thought I was well aware of events in the industry and disappointed them by stating that I didn’t know anything to this Mafab Communications.

A day or two after the announcement of this predestined auction, another “fake” news or rumor if you will, leaked that there is a link between Mafab Communications and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of the Lagos State and current national leader of the ruling party. Well, the NCC may have come to defend the integrity of its process, but as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire. One thing is certain; something fishy has happened somewhere and as Nigerians we know that almost anything can happen in Nigeria.

It is a shame that nepotism continues to point its ugly head in all facets of government activity. The powers that be may tout the competitive bidding exercise as efficient, fair, credible, well-organized and transparent, but the evidence indicates otherwise.

For example, MTN Nigeria had previously recommended that the reserve price be lowered to $ 50 million during deliberations on the draft information memorandum. The telecommunications giant has also asked for an extension of the license validity period to 20 years instead of the proposed 10 years.

Airtel, in a similar vein, also called for a downward revision of the cost of licenses, citing current economic realities in the business environment. One cannot help but wonder if the government’s grandiose plan is really aimed at deepening broadband penetration or if it was only a ploy to enrich the coffers of the ruling class.

I certainly don’t think it’s a coincidence that MTN had to sell its shares to the public. My guess, which may be as good as yours, is that the telecom leader must have mobilized enough resources to challenge the offer. And it’s an organization that’s been in the communications business for decades.

Is it just a game of the privileged few? Win the auction, wait a few years, and sell it to the highest bidder with the competence to deliver. I really hope that some people don’t play a game with what is arguably one of the most important, if not the most important industries in Nigeria?

Let me close by saying that this is an industry that I am passionate about and in which I am committed. I have devoted the past 12 years to serving and working hard to deepen the growth of the industry, so I will certainly keep an eye out for key activities like this for the sake of generations to come.

Compliments of the season to all of our readers and let’s remember the reason for the season!

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