The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has said that the ongoing amendments to two major regulatory instruments of the Commission will help in strengthening and ensuring a fair and competitive telecoms market in Nigeria.
The two regulatory instruments are the Annual Operating Levy Regulations (AOL) and the Frequency Spectrum (Fees and Pricing, etc.) Regulations for which the Commission organized a public inquiry in Abuja on Thursday, July 29, 2021.
The first instrument on AOL ensures that all licensees are properly and equitably assessed for the annual levy as well as meeting both statutory and regulatory expectations. Its review is expected to bring the Regulations in line with current realities and sustain the enviable contributions of the communications sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The second instrument on frequency spectrum fee and pricing enables the Commission to meet its sole and exclusive mandate in Section 21 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003 by equitably assigning the scarce national resource. The Regulations also ensure that the frequency spectrum is assigned and managed in a way that ensures fair pricing and efficient deployment of attendant services.
Speaking during the event, Danbatta said the public inquiry not only reflects the Commission’s strategic mission and vision to ensure regulatory excellence through effective regulatory processes but also signposts the Commission’s consultative approach to all its regulatory initiatives.
He noted that the public inquiry was a precursor to the Commission’s current drive to ensure efficiency in spectrum management and the unveiling of next-generation services through varied enablers, adding that it was in this regard that the Commission issued a Spectrum Trading Guidelines (STG) in 2018, to ensure frequency Spectrum is readily available to licensees through an effective process.
Furthermore, the Commission has commenced the process of the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria and is currently driving the provision of such ubiquitous services on making frequency Spectrum available to the licensees.
The EVC added that the efficacy and reliability of the initiatives will be hinged on proper market valuation of the frequency spectrum and fair assessment of levies.
With the explosion in technologies, Danbatta said there has been an attendant secondary reliance on different approaches to drive the best out of different frequency spectrums. He said this has led to the need for designation of several bands of frequency spectrum for communications services and a key illustration is the recent identification of some Spectrum frequencies for 5G deployment.
He stated further that the Commission is conscious of the expectations and the need to ensure that all regulatory instruments are made ready to meet these challenges, adding that this has made the reviews which the Commission is conducting an important milestone as the public inquiry in pushing the country to the front queue of this global efforts.
In his words, “we must be prepared on both ends of the industry to prepare the country for these remarkable changes. While the licensees continue to invest in deployment, the Commission will sustain its drive by ensuring regulatory efficiency and excellence”.
Danbatta further acknowledged that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020-2025, the National Digital Economy Policy & Strategy (NDEPS), 2020-2030 are all tailored to ensure that the Commission deploys new initiatives, build regulatory efficiency and ensure market stability.
He said the policy documents highlight the central nature of the frequency spectrum in meeting most of their baseline objectives and this has made the ongoing review not just necessary but inevitable to facilitate the attainments of these objectives.
Presentations were made on the comments, inputs and recommendations received from external stakeholders on the two regulatory instruments prior to the public enquiry as well as the amended sections and new provisions made to the two regulations.
Meanwhile, participants at the event made valuable contributions and raised issues that would assist the Commission in developing robust regulatory instruments that will continually contribute to the development of the industry and sustain its positive contribution to the nation’s economy.
In attendance at the public enquiry was the NCC’s Chairman, Board of Commissioners, Prof. Adeolu Akande, the Chairman of Licensing Committee of the Board, Salman Abdul-Azeez, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Ubale Maska, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu, senior management staff and other industry stakeholders both physically and virtually.