Mafab Nigeria Communications Limited is in a race to secure its Unified Access Service Licence in order to be ready for the August 24 5G launch timeline of the Nigerian Communications Commission.
Mafab, which was one of the two winners of two available lots of 100 MHz TDD slots of 3.5 GHz band for the deployment of fifth-generation network in December 2021, is yet to get an operational licence from the NCC.
Without the UASL, the operational licence for the 5G spectrum, Mafab will be incapable of launching 5G in August.
When the NCC set out to auction the 5G spectrum, it disclosed that new operators would be able to bid for the spectrum. It added that they would need to get a UASL at a fee of N374.6m should they win the auction.
At the time of winning the spectrum, Mafab had an international data access licence from the NCC and was licensed in July 2020.
Recently, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said 5G commercial services would commence after the rollout of 5G services from August 24, 2022.
While speaking at the 90th Edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament, he said, “The final letters of award have been issued to MTN and Mafab Communications, which emerged winners of the 3.5GHz Spectrum auction conducted on Dec. 13, 2021.
“In line with the information memorandum, the licensees are expected to commence rollout of 5G services effective from Aug. 24, 2022.
“The successful completion of the process leading to the final letters is confirmation that the rollout of 5G technology services in Nigeria is on course.”
Also speaking at the event, an MTN representative confirmed that the company was set to launch its 5G service on the said date.
However, the technical adviser to Mafab, Kingsley Uwazie, disclosed that the firm was working with the regulator to get its operational licence before the rollout of 5G services in the nation.
Speaking on the sidelines of the NCC’s Stakeholder’s Consultative Forum on Emerging Technologies, he said, “We are working closely with the regulator to get our operational license. As you are aware, after getting a spectrum license, you still need to get a unified access service licence and it has not been issued to us yet.
“We are working closely with the regulator to get that concluded and the moment we do that we will make a formal official announcement on when we are going live.”
Commenting on the launch timeline, he stated, “Basically, we hope our operational licence can be issued soon and the moment this is issued the chairman of the company will say something. We could surprise everyone and go live before the said date.”
When asked about the firm’s launch strategy and if it intends to acquire an existing mobile network operator, Uwazie further said, “I cannot answer questions as regards whether we want to acquire an active mobile network operator, but the truth is Mafab communications wants to come in on the best foot possible and provide services to the country.
“Yes, we’ve purchased the 5G licence, but we will look for the best possible way to provide penetration in Nigeria. We are looking at various options, like I said we are working that is why we are not talking.
“Basically, what we have on the ground is our spectrum and we want to make the best use of that and get our operational licence.
“Our operational licence is UASL will allow us to do not just 5G, but 4G, 3G, and whatever speculation can also fall into that.”