Federal Government orders NCC to grant NigComSat unified licence and 3G spectrum

13 Aug 2007

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been told by the government to grant Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat) a Unified Access Service licence, including spectrum for 3G applications. The order follows a meeting between two government ministers aimed at finding a way of ending the long-standing disagreement between the NCC and NigComSat regarding the right to offer public telephony services. The National Assembly had previously advised the NCC to grant NigComSat a licence. The NCC is insisting on due process before granting the satellite operator a concession to provide telephone services and says that NigComSat has made no formal approach to it for the allocation of spectrum. NigComSat refutes this, saying that in July 2006 it applied directly to the NCC for spectrum when it became aware of the regulator’s intention to publicly auction the spectrum. The NCC says its records show that it raised concerns about NigComSat becoming a last-mile operator, as it was already a wholesale service provider of satellite communication, and would be competing with the very companies it was supposed to serving as wholesale customers. A spokesman for the satellite operator told the local press that the financial reality faced by the firm is that it has a debt of over USD200 million accrued in the design, manufacture and the launch of NigComSat-1, and with transponder leasing only, the company is only operating at 30% of its full capacity. With a Unified Access Service licence and 3G spectrum, NigComSat could boost its revenue enough to repay its debt and launch further satellites. said the spokesman.