Airtel and 9mobile opposed the transfer of licences and resources from Visafone to MTN Nigeria, with the allocation of 800MHz spectrum a particular sticking point.
The Nigerian Communications Commission yesterday (25 June) held a public inquiry on the long-debated deal, an action it said was in line with “the spirit of participatory regulation” and its objective to “hold regular consultation with the industry stakeholders which include operators and consumers”.
Newspaper Vanguard reported 9mobile warned of the concentration of spectrum in MTN’s hands, stating “if MTN is allowed to monopolise 4G, it can be priced anyhow”. Airtel said the move would allow MTN to extend its market dominance beyond the voice segment and care should be taken not to create a monopoly.
The Punch stated MTN argued it would be wrong to punish the company for believing in the Nigerian market enough to buy more frequencies: “Given that the market is effectively competitive, the utilisation of spectrum resources in order to provide the Nigerian telecommunications consumer a better data experience and ensure that the country meets its national broadband targets should be encouraged,” it argued.
Noting demand for spectrum has increased due to the emergence of applications including mobile broadband, web applications, cloud computing and IoT, Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman of the regulator (pictured), said the aim of the inquiry is to deliver “an informed decision consistent with the Commission’s mandate to create an enabling environment for effective competition in the industry, as well as to ensure the provision of qualitative and efficient telecommunications services throughout the country”.
MTN’s acquisition of CDMA operator Visafone has been a topic of debate in Nigeria for years, due to the 800MHz spectrum holding. While other frequencies are available for operators in the country to buy, these are in higher bands, meaning they do not offer the same benefits in terms of coverage.