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Nigeria: NBC's MTN spectrum deal sparks controversy

Nigeria , 16 Sep 2015

Nigeria: NBC's MTN spectrum deal sparks controversy

The Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Emeka Mba, has confirmed that the commission has legitimately licensed Nigeria's 700MHz spectrum to mobile operator MTN.

Speaking to ITWeb Africa yesterday at NigeriaCom 2015 in Lagos, Mba said the licensing would enable the commission to generate sufficient funds needed for the digital switchover process.

According to Mba this process would make more spectrum available for broadband and other purposes.

The decision to license MTN has drawn criticism, specifically regarding the fact that the move was made without the involvement of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

In response Mba said, "NBC and NCC regulate separate and clearly demarcated sections of the spectrum. Each administers its own bundle without interference from the other. The basis for prior notification of NCC ahead of the licensing of MTN does not arise at all, constitutionally, legally and by regulatory practice. The license issued was for a converged digital broadcasting license based on the existing National Frequency Management Commission (NFMC) protocol for broadcast," he said.

According to him, the 700MHz frequency is a broadcast spectrum and does not belong to the NCC. "Several stations are currently broadcasting on that spectrum in several cities across Nigeria. Cable and UHF stations are on this frequency. The NCC is fully aware of this incontrovertible fact. The NBC enjoys a good working relationship with the NCC and each of us respects each other's boundaries."

Mba added that it is only after the successful digital switchover that the 700MHz and portions of the 800MHz will be transferred to NFMC.

"It is important to state that the NBC does not sell spectrum but licenses organisations based on their applications to broadcast using available broadcast spectrum, and other forms, such as IPTV."

The NBC was also accused of not securing the approval of the NFMC before going ahead with the deal.

But Mba retorted: "First of all, the NBC is not required by law or practice to refer back to the NFMC each time we issue a broadcast license. These frequencies have since been allocated.

Mba stressed that the Commission did not sell spectrum to MTN and only licensed the mobile operator to utilise the frequency to offer converged DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) services in the broadcasting industry.

"As to whether or not we followed due process, again the allegation is untrue. The Commission's licensing process is remarkably different from the NCC since our approvals are based on applications and the easement of the submitted application proposals," Mba said.

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