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NCA orders telcos to deploy 3G tech to remote areas

The National Communication Authority has authorized all telcos in the country to use their 900MHz 2G spectrum to deploy 3G technology, particularly in the unserved and underserved areas.

The 900MHz spectrum band was originally licensed for telcos specifically for 2G services across the country but they were later given 3G licenses specifically on 2100MHz spectrum band.

But over the years, the telcos have deployed the 900MHz in more areas across the country than they have deployed the 2100MHz because the later is more expensive to deploy.

It is estimated that aggregately, the telcos have deployed just about 30 per cent of their 3G capacities mainly up to the district capitals as required by their licensing condition and have not gone beyond.

As a result, most areas outside district capitals do not have 3G services and therefore have access to only voice and SMS services but no data.

By this authorization, therefore, the NCA is allowing the telcos to deploy Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems (UMTS), a 3G technology on the 900MHz spectrum, which is already deployed beyond district capitals and offer 3G services to the unserved and underserved area.

The NCA is giving this authorization for free, while the telcos still hold on to their 2100MHz 3G spectrum as spare.

The free period, however, lasts till 2019 when their original 2G licenses would have expired.

When that time comes, telcos would either have to go for a license renewal at a charge or the country would have been ready for the proposed unified license, where one license covers 2G to 4G or even higher.

NCA said on its website that it expects the new authorization to enable the telcos to deploy 3G in the unserved and underserved areas and thereby give more consumers 3G access across the country.

This move is expected to give consumers choice, in that once all telcos are able to deploy 3G on their existing 900MHz spectrum, no telco would have an advantage over the other so people in the remote areas would be able to swap networks when they want.