Nigeria’s regulator gave one of the country’s 5G auction winners, Mafab Communications, a five month extension to its scheduled date to begin services over the new network technology, Agence Ecofin reported.

The provider, which currently provides interconnect and wholesale services, was one of two winners of 5G spectrum licences at the country’s auction held in 2021, alongside MTN Nigeria.

On handing out the final allocations, the Nigerian Communications Commission revealed it expected the first services to start in August 2022.

However, in comments made to Agency Ecofin, the regulator’s director of public affairs Reuben Muoka explained Mafab had not received a full operating licence alongside its frequency allocation.

The delay in receiving this, the publication indicated, meant the newcomer was unable to begin services by the original deadline with an extension subsequently granted. Mafab is reportedly targeting January 2023 for its initial launches.

While the newcomer is delayed in its rollout, local newspaper The Guardian reported MTN Nigeria was “ready” and was likely to begin demonstration deployments of the new network technology this week with “full commercial launch” later this year.

GSMA Intelligence connection figures for Q2 place MTN Nigeria as the largest operator in the country with 74 million, followed by Globacom’s Glo Mobile (56 million), Airtel (46 million) and 9Mobile (13 million).

Of MTN’s largest current rivals only Airtel’s local unit entered and qualified for the 5G auction, though it came away from the sale empty handed.