Nigeria’s regulator went out to consultation last week on the forthcoming implementation of 3G. It wants it to happen as quickly as possible and bidding for licences will be very competitive because of spectrum shortages.

Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Engr Ernest Ndukwe speaking at the consultation event said: "As a regulator NCC has adopted a technology neutral approach. We don't license it. What we license is spectrum."

Engr S.A. Bello, an executive commissioner stated that the Nigerian Communications Commission wants to implement 3G licensing in Nigeria as soon as practicable for the following commercial and regulatory reasons: demand from operators, interest of Nigerian consumers, development of downward linkage industries, and development of content.

On the price of licences, this is how Bello evaluated the Nigerian situation. "Based on recommendations of the UMTS Forum and experience from U.K. and European auctions about five years ago, an operator required a minimum of 15 MHz FDD and 5 MHz TDD spectrum to provide a viable 3G network. Based on this historical data we can only have maximum of three 3G operators with national coverage in Nigeria. However technical developments and regulatory intervention can increase the number beyond three.

"The fact there is not enough spectrums to go round all the 20 major and medium-size operators automatically means that a form of competitive licensing is inevitable," he said. Bello was however optimistic that the situation could change for the following reasons: development in technology can lessen spectrum requirement, regional licensing can accommodate more operators through frequency re-use, ITU may in WRC-2007 agree on more spectrums for 3G, and the TDD portion of the 3G spectrum allocation can be packaged separately for operators that can deploy TDD technology as platform for providing 3G services.