Nigeria licenses additional spectrum as it moves to increase broadband access

Telecoms

The completion of a recent spectrum auction in Nigeria represents a big step forward for the mobile broadband networks. However, given the challenges and costs of maintaining the infrastructure for high-speed access, there is increasing attention from both the public and private sector to reducing overheads and improving infrastructure efficiency.

In late February, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the sector’s regulator, announced Bitflux Communications was the winner in an auction for a 10-year licence to provide wholesale wireless access services in the 2.3-GHz band. Bitflux, a consortium of three firms (VDT Communications, Bitcom Systems and Superflux International), clinched the licence with a bid of $23.25m. Lagos-based Globacom – which as one of four GSM operators in Nigeria already provides mobile internet to retail users – was the only other participant.

While the sale had initially attracted expressions of interest from 27 companies, just Bitflux and Globacom went on submit the necessary documents to pre-qualify for the auction.

The move to license additional spectrum is part of Nigeria’s plan to improve access to broadband internet, mainly through wireless connections. According to the National Broadband Plan 2013-18, the current broadband penetration rate stands at 4-6%, a figure the government would like to see raised to 42% by 2018 and 76% by 2020. Coverage is also set to increase to 95% by the end of the decade.

In a late February statement, Eugene Juwah, executive vice-chairman of NCC, said the regulator was planning to auction spectrum in the 700-MHz, 2.5-GHz and 2.6-GHz bands before the end of 2015.