MTN Group was awarded additional broadband spectrum in Nigeria related to its 2015 acquisition of Visafone Communications following a lengthy regulator battle.
The Nigerian Communications Commission approved the transfer of 800-megahertz spectrum following a public inquiry into the boost the move would give to MTN’s market-leading position in the country. MTN bought Visafone from Jim Ovia, the former CE of Zenith Bank, four years ago.
The decision will enable Johannesburg-based 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. 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 said by phone. “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 $5-billion 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 $1-billion plus a pledge to sell shares on the local stock market, which is slated for later this year.