NBC defends N34b spectrum deal with MTN
THE National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has defended the N34 billion deal on 700MHz frequency licensing with telecommunications operator, MTN Nigeria.
Speaking at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, NBC Director-General, Emeka Mba, said the money realised was part of the funding required to help Nigeria pursue and achieve the new deadline date of June 20, 2017 as agreed to by Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Digital Switch Over (DSO).
Mba affirmed that the commission was working assiduously to meet the new Digital Switch Over (DSO) deadline.
According to him, the ITU deadline was not met due to lack of fund and myriad of challenges before the NBC such as aggregate content development, distribution and production and availability of Set Top Boxes (STBs).
Such, he said, necessitated moves by the NBC to look for means of raising the needed funds to avoid missing it again, which included the 700MHz spectrum frequency bands licensing awarded MTN Nigeria for N34 billion.
‘’We are working hard to meet this deadline. The licensing will afford Nigerians the best option for the provision of high quality converged broadcasting and telecommunications services.
‘’It will also enable the funding for a successful (DSO), which would free up more spectrum for sale,’’ Mba said.
Though the NBC DG claimed that the process that gave MTN the licensing was thorough, he, however, refused to name other telecommunications firm that competed with MTN, saying he was not authorised to mention their names.
Mba said the commission was doing everything possible to ensure the new two-year deadline was met.
Mba, who said the commission got approval from two former ministers of Information and Communications Technology, stated: “We actually approached the last administration for funding where we budgeted about N70 billion for the DSO project, and it was pruned down to N51 billion, which we still could not get the fund.”
“But we were told to look for means to get the process funded. So, that formed part of why the 700MHz was auctioned. We did actually screened the documents of firms that bidded and we found MTN most qualifying and they were awarded.”
He added that the commission had already licensed 13 companies that would manufacture the STBs locally.
The NBC boss said that switching over to digital was a win-win for the consumers, television industry and the government.
We are creating a value chain and fundamentally, we believe that TV should be free even though Pay TV is important. We believe in Free-To-Air, so, we are trying to create an ecosystem that adds value to the consumer.
‘’We are creating a future that will bridge the digital divide especially in homes that see TV as a primary source of information,’’ Mba further said.