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4G/5G

Airtel sole bidder in Nigeria's second 5G spectrum round

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Airtel Africa has emerged as the sole bidder for 5G spectrum in Nigeria in a second round of licensing of spectrum for the next-generation technology.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said a second bidder - Standard Network – also expressed interest in the spectrum auction for the 3.5GHz band but failed to pay a deposit this week to continue with the auction.

"Only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas, Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by twelve working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable," the regulator said.

This has left Airtel as the sole bidder and the NCC said that "there shall be no further bidding," and it will move ahead to the assignment stage of the process.

Airtel is Nigeria's second-biggest operator, tied in second place with Glo Mobile as each has around 28% market share as of September 2022, according to statistics from market research company Omdia. MTN Nigeria leads both with about 38% market share and 9Mobile has just 6% of users in the market.

Joining the 5G club

MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications both gained access to 5G spectrum during the first round of the licensing process in December 2021, paying $273.6 million each.

Airtel Nigeria pulled out of the bidding last year, reportedly due to the high price but will now also have to fork over $273.6 million for a ten-year license on the 5G spectrum.

MTN Nigeria became the first Nigerian operator to roll out commercial 5G in the West African country in September 2022.

Mafab has experienced some delays in its rollout plans and is now targeting January 2023 for its initial 5G launches.


Want to know more about 4G and 5G in Africa? Check out our dedicated 4G/5G content channel here on Connecting Africa.


According to the GSMA, there are commercial 5G networks in more than ten African countries and many more countries are expected to launch commercial 5G by 2025.

In 2022 alone there have been launches by Orange in Botswana and MTN in Zambia in November; Safaricom in Kenya and Telkom in South Africa in October; as well as Vodacom in Tanzania in September; and Econet in Zimbabwe in February.

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*Top image source: Image by wirestock on Freepik.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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