Unlike his predecessor, the current Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr Eugene Ikemefuna Juwah, is a taciturn man. Though friendly and brilliant, the NCC boss does not address journalists every now and then except on occasions when serious industry issue crops up. On such occasion, a different Juwah is seen blowing hot, invoking NCC Act to buttress his stance.
Now, the NCC executive vice chairman is at the middle of a frequency allocation storm and he has been speaking loudly on it.
It was alleged that some top staff of NCC engaged in frequency racketeering, selling a frequency slot belonging to the Nigerian Police to a private firm, OpenSkys.
The current leadership of the commission was also to have issued frequencies to a company, Smile Communications without due process.
NCC denies allegation
But the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has denied that its Management engaged in frequency band racketeering, saying due process was followed in allocating frequency to companies.
The telecoms regulatory agency said in a statement that "there is no truth in both allegations."
NCC's spokesman, Reuben Mouka said the frequencies allocated to OpenSkys and Smile Communications are in two frequency different bands, and followed a due process for similar frequencies at the commission, and began since 2009.
He said the frequency spectrum allocated to the Police by the commission is intact and has not in any way affected by the allocation.
'Frequency allocation controversy good for the industry'
Some telecoms industry analysts who spoke with Daily Trust on the issue yesterday said the NCC frequency racketeering controversy is good for the telecoms industry. Deolu Ogunbanjo, who leads a telecoms right group, said as far as he is concerned the allegations would make NCC to sit up and be more transparent. "Though NCC has brought facts to explain and pooh-pooh the allegations, I believe they(NCC) are right but next they should try and carry everybody along in its sale and bidding process. If the whistle blower had been carried along, they would not be washing their dirty linen outside.
Also, a telecoms engineer who pleaded for anonymity said...... "But away from that, I think I have done mu own investigation and what I have discovered so far is that the allegations are not true but NCC needs to be more open next time", he told Daily Trust.
The process of allocation and the Presidential directive
Mouka said the current Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Juwah, did not initiate the allocation of the aforesaid frequencies, having resumed in July 2010, while the process began since 2009, adding that even after resumption at the NCC, Dr. Juwah has strictly followed the due process of issuance of licenses and frequencies.
"In the case of OpenSkys, its allocation process began in 2008 following a Presidential directive to the Commission for allocation of a portion in the 450 MHz to NIGCOMSAT. A request which the Commission's Board acceded to after it was fully deliberated upon by the Board of the Commission during its 62nd, 63rd and 64th Sittings and other subsequent meetings. But 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 OpenSkys, the company applied for the license and frequency in 2009. Note that 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 5th of October 2005, approved by the then ministry of communications to be moved to 469.375 - 469.975 MHz / 459.375 - 459.975 MHz of this spectrum. OpenSkys, 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 said.
The commission then made an initial offer of frequency to OpenSkys on February 4, 2009, with a condition of acceptance within 30 days. OpenSkys accepted the offer on February 23, 2009, according to NCC's Director of Public Affairs Tony Ojobo.
He added: "On October 2, 2009, upon review of the status of the offer, the commission issued a provisional offer of the frequency to OpenSkys on the condition of payment of N247,544,989.40 for replacement of digital radio equipment of the Nigerian Police that may result from the relocation. OpenSkys was also to pay the sum of N892,455,010.60 to NCC representing the balance of the spectrum fees for the offer. Frequency fees are paid into the federation account. The total spectrum fees for the 5MHz spectrum for a tenure of 5 Years is N1,140,000,000 (One Billion, One Hundred and Forty Million naira only)."
He continued: "In 2012, OpenSkys informed the Commission about an upward review of the cost of reprogramming the digital radios of the Nigerian Police to N350 million from the initial N247,544,989.40. OpenSkys informed the Commission of an agreement with the police for the relocation, for which the police sought the confirmation of the Commission and received in the affirmative".
Grant of license to Smile Communications
The allegations on frequency allocation to Smile Communications Nigeria Limited are also false, NCC said.
Smiles Communication Limited, according NCC's Tony Ojobo, holds three major licenses from NCC. On the 1st July 2009, Messrs Smile Communications Nigeria Limited was awarded a Unified Access Service License (UASL) for ten years, till 30th June 2019, he explained, adding that, the second license held by Smile Communications is PNL National license awarded in 2009.
He further clarified that the third license granted to Smile Communications Nigeria Limited is a Spectrum License in July, 2009 for 10 years till 2019 in the 850 MHZ band.
"Application for the spectrum license from Messrs Smile Communications was received by the Commission in May 2008. The application was processed and necessary approvals secured in accordance with sections 123 and 33 of the Act and in compliance with the commission's licensing procedures. The Commission applied the principle of First Come First Served. As at the time of licensing of Smile Communications there was no other application for the 850 MHZ. Smile Communications was finally granted spectrum license in July 2009.
"Smile Communications was licensed to provide broadband multimedia services on the 850 MHz Band nationwide. It was assigned 15MHz spectrum based on Time Division Duplexing (TDD) in the 850MHz band to provide wireless access services in 2009. The subsequent global acceptance of digital television technology required the re-planning of the 850 MHz band to avail the opportunities accruing from the digital dividend.
Administrative spectrum allocations
Ojobo said there are more allocations awarded administratively (without an auction process) than those awarded by way of auctions. Some of the frequency allocations done without auction process, according to him, include: In the 800MHz, we currently have 1) Multilinks, Intercellular, Prestel, Megatech, Odu'a Telecom, Rainbownet. In the 1800 MHz, we had Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS) -----Operating today as Etisalat, in the 1900 MHz, we have Starcomm, Multilinks,Reliance Telecom, MTS First Wireless, Nitel. In 2.2 GHz, we have ipNX,Imperial, in 2.3GHz we have Direct On PC, in the 2.5 GHz, we still have a several companies licensed by NBC, In 5.4 GHz ANAS and several ISPs, in 10.5 GHz, there is MTN and Gateway/Vodacom and in 26GHz,we have MTN.