MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications emerged as the two winners in a Nigerian auction of 5G-suitable spectrum, outbidding Airtel Africa’s local unit and each spending $273.6 million.

Announcing the results, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) noted the two winners would receive 100MHz in the 3.5GHz band with exact allocations to be decided in the upcoming assignment stage of the process.

The two successful bidders and Airtel Nigeria were the only three companies to qualify for the auction and pay the associated deposit. All three were still in the running until Airtel dropped out when the offer price exceeded $270 million.

MTN and Mafab Communications, which currently supplies interconnect and wholesale services, will be required to settle the bill minus deposits already made by 24 February 2022.

The NCC expects operators to begin rolling out the new network technology in 2022. Licences are being issued alongside various coverage obligations spread out over their ten-year durations.

Airtel will be far from the only operator in the country without a 5G spectrum allocation, with sizeable rivals Globacom and Teleology’s 9Mobile among the many players not taking part in the auction.