MTN Receives Additional Visafone Spectrum
MTN Group has been awarded additional broadband spectrum in Nigeria related to its 2015 acquisition of Visafone Communications Limited after a lengthy battle with the industry regulatory agency.
The Nigerian Communications Commission approved the transfer of 800-megahertz spectrum following a public inquiry into the move, which stakeholders said would boost MTN’s market-leading position in the country, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
About four years ago, MTN bought Visafone from the former Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia.
Commenting on the development, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Olusola Teniola, said the decision would enable the telecom company to extend the reach of its network in Nigeria, potentially to rural and unconnected areas.
“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 was quoted as saying.
“Any operator that has the kind of spectrum that MTN holds is in a good position to lead the market,” he added.
Other telecom operators in the country had opposed the transfer of operating license and resources, including 800MHz spectrum, from Visafone Communication Limited to MTN Nigeria at a public hearing organized by NCC in 2018.
They argued that the spectrum would create room for wider dominance of the market by MTN, and monopoly of 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 registration, a crisis from which the share price has not fully 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 this year.
The telecommunications company with headquarters in South Africa has 67 million active customers in the country, more than half of whom use data services.