NCC grants MTN more spectrum after protracted tussle

April 12, 2019
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MTN has been awarded additional broadband spectrum related to its 2015 acquisition of Visafone Communications, following a lengthy regulator battle.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) approved the transfer of 800-megahertz spectrum following a public inquiry.

The transfer of 800-megahertz spectrum is expected to boost MTN’s market-leading position in the country.

MTN bought Visafone from Jim Ovia, the former CEO of Zenith Bank, four years ago.

The decision will enable MTN to extend its network reach in Africa’s most populous country, potentially to rural and unconnected areas, according to Olusola Teniola, president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

The carrier — Africa’s biggest by sales — has 67-million active customers in the country, more than half of whom use data services.

“MTN is a dominant player in the voice segment and obviously they would like to ensure that they hold a leadership position in the data space,” Teniola told Bloomberg.

“Any operator that has the kind of spectrum that MTN holds is in a good position to lead the market.”

Getting the better of an NCC ruling will come as a welcome boost to MTN, which has long been the subject of regulator and government censure in Nigeria.

In 2015, the NCC fined the carrier more than $5bn for missing a deadline to disconnect subscribers without proper registrations, a crisis from which the share price has never recovered.

The penalty was eventually settled for about $1bn plus a pledge to sell shares on the local stock market, which is slated for later in 2019.

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