The future of the fourth Nigeria 3G license is the subject of speculation following reports that its owner – Nigerian conglomerate Dangote Group – cannot afford to launch services. An unnamed source at the firm told Nigeria’s NEXT newspaper last week said that “we cannot afford to run the 3G licence…we are planning to sell off the licence to another operator.” However, the management of Dangote Group – which holds the license via a subsidiary called Alheri Engineering – moved to quash speculation. “The company is in operation and is close to completing a major corporate strategy overhaul, details of which will be communicated to the general public in due course,” it said in a statement.
Four 3G licenses were issued by the Nigerian regulator in March 2007 but Alheri is the only license holder yet to launch services. MTN Nigeria, Zain (formerly Celtel Nigeria) and Globacom are the other licensees. According to the report, the Nigerian regulator has twice launched investigations into why Alheri has yet to launch services using the spectrum. “They have given the commission a satisfactory explanation about their delay, so we have to give them more time,” said Reuben Muoka, a spokesman for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). It is thought that recent Nigerian mobile market entrant Etisalat (which launched in 4Q08) is interested in acquiring the fourth 3G license. However, under current NCC rules, operators are prohibited from selling licenses to each other.