By Mark Kawalya
Telecom operators finally have a chance to grab a piece of the 5G spectrum pie, but it will come at a sizeable cost. Interested operators will have to fork out a preliminary commitment fee of up to US$1.5M if they plan to roll out the new technology using more than one frequency band.
The Uganda Communications Commission has plans to complete the allocation process in the middle of August this year although carriers should have completed spectrum reservations by then.
Available spectrums include 700MHz, 800MHz, 2300MHz, 2600MHz, 3300MHz, 3500MHz, 5GHz (Block C), and the E-band (Block B) bands that will facilitate the development of broadband services, capacity, and coverage in Uganda. Currently most 5G spectrum in the East African region oscillates in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 1800MHz, and 3300MHz bands category.
UCC will assign the subject spectrum to operators that offer a clear-cut utilization plan that presents the highest value for the spectrum along with socio-economic benefits. If an assignment of radio spectrum is done where demand surpasses the amount of available spectrum, the regulator will utilize competitive processes to assign the spectrum in question.
Similarly, the regulator has put in place some caps to ensure a rational and equitable distribution of spectrum in all bands. A case in point is that the total 5G spectrum holding for the sub-1GHz band for a successful applicant of 700MHz or 800MHz shall not exceed 2x20MHz. Additionally, the combined spectrum holding of a successful applicant for the 5G spectrum (2300MHz, 2600MHz, 3300MHz, and 3500MHz bands) will not exceed 220MHz.
The UCC expects applicants to submit a clear roll-out and business plan before they are awarded any spectrum. The regulator also requires operators to have a five year roll-out plan that highlights the tangible milestones, timelines, and indicators that will measure the progress of the proposed network expansion.
The UCC also stipulates that the roll-out plan should also have details of the framework within which the existing network infrastructure shall (in the case of existing licensees) be re-used to facilitate the deployment of the new spectrum.