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MTN, Airtel Renew Operating Licences For ₦40bn

MTN Nigeria and Airtel Nigeria
The Nigerian Communications Commission has approved the renewal and consequent extension of the tenure of MTN’s operating spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands, and that of Airtel Nigeria Limited for the sum of $202.2m.

The new licences, which will expire in 2021, consolidate the Digital Mobile Licences and the Unified Access Licences that the two pioneer Global System of Mobile communications operators obtained from the Nigerian Communications Commission in 2001 and 2006, respectively.

While MTN has up to December to pay the sum of $94.2m, our correspondents learnt that Airtel has already paid $108m for the renewal of its DML licence.

The licence extension notification was contained in a letter dated November 2, 2015, and signed by the acting Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umaru Dambatta.

The letter read in part, “MTN will, however, be required to pay the sum of $94,225,152.75 (N1.9tn) as spectrum fee for the five year extension period.”

The DML licences that proceeded from the spectrum auction held by the NCC in 2001 expire in February 2016 and the operators are required by law to apply for their renewal six months before the expiration if they so wish.

In 2006, the NCC issued the Unified Access Licences to the operators and will expire in 2021. The unified licence offers the operators the chance to offer any kind of services in the telecommunications industry unlike the DML that limits them to GSM services.

With the renewal of the DML spectrum for a period of five years, both licences are now consolidated and will expire in 2021 with no need for separate licences at the expiration of the period.

The Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, confirmed this development in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Tuesday.

Both MTN and the precursor of Airtel, Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited, had in 2001 won digital mobile licences in an auction that ushered in digital mobile services in the country in August of the same year. Each of the companies paid $285m for the licence.

The third company that was issued the spectrum licence, the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited, the mobile arm of Nigeria Telecommunications Limited, has not been operational for several years.

In February 2001, pursuant to one of the most transparent mobile licence auctions in the world, the NCC issued the DML to three pioneer mobile operators. The licenses were bundled with spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands.

Among other authorisations, MTN also holds a Unified Access Licence and a 3G spectrum licence through which it provides a full bouquet of digital services to its customers in the country.

The Corporate Services Executive, MTN Nigeria, Akinwale Goodluck, said, “We view this extension as a demonstration of confidence in MTN’s capacity to continue to provide ground-breaking and innovative services to its customers, and another milestone in the evolution of the Nigerian communications industry.”


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