By Mortimer Hope, Director of Africa, GSMA
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has resumed the 2.6 GHz spectrum auction process, and here’s hoping there are no more obstacles as the band would pave the way for faster networks and more affordable smartphones for its citizens.
Since the first 4G network was launched, the 2.6 GHz band has played a key role in the rollout of 4G networks around the world. Today it is the second most used band (after the 1,800 MHz band) when counting the number of networks and number of available devices.
The popularity of a band and the scale that comes with it is important because it helps lower the cost of devices. 4G smartphones are still more expensive than their 3G counterparts, but prices are steadily dropping.
Assuming operators are allowed to obtain at least 2 x 20 MHz of bandwidth (as they are in many parts of the world), the band can also improve network performance, offer faster data transmissions and greater capacity. Nigerian mobile subscribers should benefit from a higher quality viewing experience of Nollywood movies and popular video content, from the likes of Ndani.tv and Channels Television, directly on their smartphones.
At the same time, licensing 2.6 GHz is only one element of supporting a successful 4G roll-out in Nigeria. The challenge with this spectrum is that the band is not suited to providing widespread coverage, so for a mobile operator to be able to offer great speeds as well as coverage it has to be combined with frequencies below 1 GHz.
For example, the 700 MHz band is gaining momentum and is proving to be a good companion to the 2.6 GHz band. The same goes for 800 MHz. Operators that have been allowed to obtain licenses in two or more of these bands can combine them with a technology called “carrier aggregation” to offer high speeds. That might seem far-fetched, but the feature is also making its way onto low-cost smartphones.
For Nigeria, a successful auction that lets mobile operators obtain spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band on fair terms would be a major step in the right direction.