By Technology Times Reporter
Lagos. October 5, 2012: Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has denied a newspaper report of alleged frequency spectrum racketeering by the current leadership of the telecoms industry regulatory agency.
Head, Media and Public Relations, NCC, Reuben Muoka denied that the current boss of regulatory agency has allegedly sold frequency slot belonging to the Nigeria Police to a private firm, Open Skys.
The telecoms regulator also absolved its boss, Eugene Juwah of any wrongdoing in the process of allocation of the frequency which it said preceded his July 2010 resumption in office as Executive Vice Chairman of NCC.
According to a statement by the agency’s spokesman, there is also no truth to the allegation that NCC issued a frequency spectrum to Smile Communications.
Muoka adds that, “the Current Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah, did not initiate the allocation of the aforesaid frequencies, having resumed in July 2010, while the process began since 2009. Even after resumption at the NCC, Dr. Juwah has strictly followed the due process of issuance of licenses and frequencies.”
According to him, “the Nigerian Commission has been inundated by calls from concerned citizens over a story in the Leadership Newspaper of Thursday, October 4, 2012 which alleged frequency racketeering, with an insinuation that the management of the Commission has sold a frequency slot belonging to the Nigerian police to a private firm, Open Skys.”
Denying the report, Muoka says, “that the story in its entirety lacks basic understanding of frequency allocation and its processes involved, resulting in unsubstantiated information capable of misleading the public and industry stakeholders.”
NCC says the frequencies allocated to Open Skys and Smile Communications are in two separate frequency different bands while due process were followed in the allocation which started in 2009 for similar frequencies at the Commission.
According to the regulator, “the Frequency spectrum allocated to the Police by the Commission is intact and has not n any way affected by the allocation.”
NCC adds that the allocation of frequency to Open Skys followed due process and began in 2008 following a Presidential directive to the Commission for allocation of a portion in the 450 MHz to NIGCOMSAT, the public-owned satellite services company.
NCC adds that its Board acceded to request, “on the condition that NIGCOMSAT, being a government agency, must seek for private sector partnership before qualifying for such allocation. Upon compliance and submission of the name of Open Skys, the company applied for the license and frequency in 2009.”
According to Muoka, “the use of 450 MHz for commercial telecommunications was approved by the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) on Nov 5, 2004. After this approval, occupants in this band like the Police, Shell PDC, Agip, Chevron, and some others, were relocated to specific portions of the band from where they had indiscriminately occupied. The Nigerian Police was specifically on 18th of October 2005, approved to be moved to 469.375 – 469.975 MHz / 459.375 – 459.975 MHz of this spectrum. Open Skys, in which NIGCOMSAT has interest, were to pay the police for the relocation cost estimated at N350 Million, which from our records, was complied with.”
He adds that, “Open Skys was thereafter invoiced for the sum of N1.141billion, for 5 years to enable the re-farming of the frequency while it paid the sum of N892, 455,010.60 as frequency fee destined for the Federation Account while the balance of N247, 544,989.40 later adjusted to N350 Million would to cover the additional cost of replacement of the old radios belonging to the Police since they will not be attuned to the new frequency spectrum, was paid.”
NCC faulted the alleged claim of racketeering by its leadership on any frequency belonging to the Police and allocation to a private company while noting that “the Nigerian Police, Shell, AGIP and others still have allocation on the different portions of the 450MHz band.”
Muoka maintains that all the decisions on the matter were taken by the Board of NCC and all the due processes were followed while noting that it is the Commission that also decides which of the available allocation processes as prescribed by the relevant laws, are applied during any allocation of frequencies.
He adds that in the case of Smile Communications Ltd, the company was in 2009 awarded a Unified Access Service License (UASL) for a 10-year period that expires on June 30, 2019 alongside a Private Networks Link (PNL) and a spectrum in the 850 MHz band for implementation of the licenses having applied since 2008.
According to NCC, the company’s applications were processed in line with sections 123 and 33 of the Act and in compliance with our licensing procedures.
According to the regulator, Smile Communications was licensed to provide broadband multimedia services on the 850 MHz Band nationwide and was assigned 15 MHz spectrum based on Time Division Duplexing (TDD) in the 850 MHz band to provide wireless access services in 2009.
“In March 2010, Smile Communications appealed that their 15 MHz Time Division Duplexing, TDD, assignment to 10 MHz Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD). While this application was undergoing consideration, the Commission, first and foremost, took a decision to allocate additional 5MHz frequency on the TDD as earlier requested by Smile Communications to ensure effective use of the 15 MHz which it already had as the current status of the 15MHz would constitute a waste. The consideration of its request, which implied a conversion of the spectrum from TDD to FDD for a lower value, is yet to be decided as this would require time and costs for re-farming all the frequencies, and also to accommodate many applications that are being made for its use due to the digital dividend opportunities”, adds Muoka
NCC says further that its UASL license, Smile Communications paid N320,250,000.00 on June 26, 2009; for the PNL license, it paid N46,830,000.00 on February 26, 2009 and for its Spectrum License with 10 years validity from July 2009, it paid N2,154,600,000 (two billion, one Hundred and fifty four million, six hundred thousand naira which is for the Federation Account and also paid N718,200,000 for the additional 5 MHz
“We have taken efforts to provide details of these transactions to show clearly that Dr. Juwah has not even resumed at the NCC when the process of the allocations began. We also make bold to say that all due processes were taken in the allocations contrary to the allegations contained in the report”, adds the agency’s spokesman.
According to Muoka, “we advise newsmen to always seek clarifications from the Commission before going to press with sensitive information that are false but capable of misinforming the public and casting the Commission and its management in bad light. The Commission restates that in all its regulatory activities, due processes are followed, just like in the cases reported by the newspaper.”