The Federal Government has raised an 18-member team to map out plans for Nigeria’s 5G spectrum auctions following, the Senate clearance over public health concerns.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) took the “major proactive regulatory step” after a Senate investigative hearing that gave 5G technology “a clean bill of health”, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and Chief Executive Officer of NCC says.
Engr. Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner (Technical Services) of NCC was named “Auction Adviser” while Engr. Oluwatoyin Asaju, NCC’s Director of Spectrum Administration, is Chairman of the Committee set up to develop the Information Memorandum (IM) for the auction of 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band to be used for “early deployment of 5G services in the country.”
Apart from developing the IM for auctioning of C-band spectrum for Nigeria’s 5G deployment, the Committee’s Terms of Reference (ToR) include the development of an award process “to be used pursuant to which the grant of Spectrum licenses may be made”, according to a statement by NCC.
The IM, which defines the process that the Nigerian telecoms regulator has decided to adopt for the auctioning of the 3.5GHz spectrum band, “will provide information on the Nigerian telecoms market, details of the Spectrum to be made available, the pre-qualification process, the Auction process and indicative timetable.
Nigeria’s 5G spectrum auctions: The road ahead
The Committee’s tasks include the auctioning of the C-band spectrum for 5G deployment in Nigeria in line with the award process; “as well as report regularly/fortnightly to the EVC through the Office of the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services of the Commission on the progress made by the Committee.”
Danbatta, who underscores the “established mutual understanding among stakeholders that 5G service poses neither security nor health risk to users” is also delighted at the current stage of the 5G service deployment process in Nigeria.
According to him, “the outcome of the work of the Committee is a major step towards realisation of 5G services in Nigeria.”
NCC, in line with its mandate, “has committed enormous resources to ensure harmonised spectrum is secured and released in a timely manner for present and future deployment of services that will underpin the fourth industrial revolution, including International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT-2020) services.”
This is in recognition of relevant provisions of the Nigerian Communication Act (NCA-2003) and its strategic plan for effective communications resource management, facilitating broadband penetration and improving Quality of Service (QoS) amongst others, Danbatta says.
The Commission, he says, had ensured the participation of relevant staff in international fora, especially in the International Telecommunication Union Radio Telecommunication Sector (ITU-R) study groups, to enable the allocation of strategic Spectrum to IMT services, especially IMT 2020, which, he said, has been in the front burner in the last two ITU-R study cycles towards World Radio Communication Conference (WRC-15 & WRC-19).
“Arising from these efforts, which include engagements with relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations during preparatory meetings at National, Regional and Continental level, we have been able to secure harmonised frequencies for 5G deployment in Nigeria.”
Where NCC desired premium spectrum like the 3.5GHz with good propagation characteristics suitable for capacity and coverage with good device ecosystem but did not have sufficient allocation, “we put in extra efforts and secured additional 160MHz in the 3.5GHz band by making huge commitment of resources to secure additional Spectrum from Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited (NigComSat),” that resulted in a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NCC and NigComSat, the nation’s commercial satellite services provider.
“Having put in these efforts and resources to secure, amongst others, contiguous Spectrum in a premium band like the 3.5GHz band that is being adopted as the best Spectrum for early deployment of 5G with about 70 per cent of 5G global deployment so far, it has become imperative to immediately re-purpose the 3.5GHz band in Nigeria for auction in accordance with best practices.
“In view of this, NCC Management deemed it necessary to constitute the Committee with clear ToRs, adding that the Committee members are expected to demonstrate strong commitment required to carry out these tasks and in a timely manner,” according to the telecoms regulatory chief.
According to him, though some successful auctions have been conducted by the Commission in the past, “extra effort is required of us to ensure the success of this particular exercise since the 5G technology is just being adopted around the globe.”
Danbatta wants the team to consider benchmarking its activities against other countries where 5G has been successfully deployed through successful auction of relevant spectrum bands like 3.5GHz.
On his part, Asaju, Chairman of the Committee, “amplified the EVC’s voice on the MoU with NigComSat. Asaju stated that the Commission had, in line with the NCA- 2003, filed a request for bulk allocation of 380 MHz bandwidth (3.52 – 3.9) GHz in the 3.5 GHz band from the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC).”
While assuring the EVC of the Committee’s readiness to deliver on its ToR, Asaju says the outcome of the actions will, no doubt, form the basis and put NCC on the right pedestal for 5G deployment in Nigeria.
Maska, who is the Committee’s Auction Adviser, assures the EVC that the Committee will deliver on its mandate, while noting that work of the team is without prejudice to the approval of the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC), which, he says, must be in place before 5G deployment can commence in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s 5G spectrum auctions: Meet Maska, the Adviser of the team.
Engr. Ubale Ahmed Shehu Maska, the Executive Commissioner (Technical Services) of NCC will also serve as Adviser of the Nigeria 5G team.
According to Danbatta, the Nigerian telecoms regulatory chief, the 5G team will report regularly/fortnightly to the EVC of NCC “through the Office of the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services of the Commission on the progress made by the Committee.”
Following his graduation with a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.) – Electrical from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1982, Maska proceeded to Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt where he served as a teaching and laboratory assistant in the Electrical Engineering Department as his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) primary assignment, according to his bio obtained by Technology Times.
Maska returned to ABU afterwards in 1983 as a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1983, and was later promoted to Assistant Lecturer in 1986. During this period, he pursued and obtained a Master’s Degree (MSc.) in Electronics and Telecommunications from his alma mater.
Maska joined the National Universities Commission (NUC) in 1989, leaving in 1997 as Head of Hardware & Networking Division after also having served as Head of the System Administration Team of the NUC’s computer network, and representing the NUC on the steering Committee of the Nigerian Internet Group (NIG).
While at the NUC, he obtained his second Master’s Degree, this time in Software Systems Engineering from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, gaining experience in the design and deployment of automatic control systems as part of the Master’s programme in Lunen, Germany.
Maska’s education continued following his return from the University of Sheffield with training courses in systems integration and structured cabling, which took him to TNSI (Canada), MIPD (USA) and several other institutions.
After this, he joined the Petroleum Equalization Fund (Management) Board (PEFB) as Manager in charge of its Management Information System (MIS) in May, 1997, where he spearheaded the development of various software packages to meet the needs of all arms of the fund and the training of more than half the workforce of the PEFB in basic computing skills.
He also led the planning of the PEFB’s computerization project for deploying Local Area Networks (LANs) in the Fund’s Abuja and Lagos offices and other smaller installations in 22 NNPC depots across the country and connecting all networks together into a Wide Area Network (WAN) via satellite.
Following his stint at the PEFB, Maska moved to the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) in October 1999 as a Deputy General Manager in charge of Information Technology where he was responsible for all computing facilities and the LAN deployment and networking of the NSITF’s Northern offices.
In 2001, Maska joined NCC as a Deputy Director (Engineering Directorate – now Spectrum Administration Department), where he was part of the team that pioneered the Spectrum Administration procedures and processes in respect of commercial Spectrum in Nigeria and the creation of a Spectrum Pricing Structure for the nation.
Maska was also a member of the team responsible for the initial automation of Frequency Management Records, the establishment of the initial National Frequency Allocation Table in accordance with the ITU’s recommendations and participated in the resolution of several frequency interference issues.
Notably, he represented the NCC at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – World Radio Conference (WRC), 2003.
He then moved to the Technical Research & Standards Directorate where he participated in the preparatory meetings of the ITU – World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), 2008. He was then appointed Head of Cyber Security in the newly created New Media & Information Security Department, where he initiated the process of establishing the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) for Nigeria, and also initiated collaborative relationships with numerous International bodies, most notably the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Cyber Security issues.
He was then posted to head the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department in 2011, where he spearheaded the formation of the Industry Working Group on Multiple Taxation/Regulation in Nigeria, and was promoted Director of the Department in 2012.
Maska is a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and is happily married with children.
Nigeria’s 5G spectrum auctions: Meet Asaju, the Chairman of the team.
Engr. Oluwatoyin Asaju, who has been named the Chairman of the 5G team, is a certified Engineer and the current Director of Spectrum Administration Department at NCC.
Asaju holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical Engineering (1985), Master of Business Administration (1998) and Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Science (2004) all from the prestigious University of Ilorin.
A beneficiary of the ITU postgraduate scholarship programme, Engineer Asaju earned a Master’s Degree in Telecommunications Regulation and Policy (MRP) with distinction from the University of West Indies in 2007, according to his bio.
As an experienced Engineer and Administrator, Asaju has participated in many local and international conferences where he has made significant contributions in diverse areas of Engineering.
Asaju is a member of several professional bodies of international repute, including the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Fellow; Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); Member, Nigerian Institution of ICT Engineers (NIICTE); Member, Nigerian Institute of ICT Engineers (NIICTE) and Member, Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (NIEEE), among others.
Asaju joined the services of NCC in 2005 and has moved through the ranks, serving in different capacities before becoming the Director, Spectrum Administration Department of the Nigerian telecoms regulatory office.