MTN wants NCC to release Visafone spectrum

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Ozioma Ubabukoh

MTN has called on the Nigerian Communications Commission to release the spectrum that belongs to Visafone, whose equity shares it acquired in 2015.

Our correspondent gathered on Friday that MTN made the call when the Group Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, MTN, Mr. Phuthuma Nhleko, led a delegation to the NCC headquarters in Abuja.

According to the report of the meeting made available to our correspondent, Nhleko also appealed to the commission to grant the telecoms firm more spectrum licences.

He canvassed for a better level playing field despite the firm being the dominant player.

He said MTN had made its mark in voice and data services and that more services, like mobile financial services, were underway.

“We have a very long way to go and so we ask for spectrum, which is the oxygen and life blood to navigate this long and tedious investment journey. Without spectrum, the sector will suffocate,” the MTN chairman said.

In its response, the NCC said it was open to discussion with MTN on more spectrum licences.

The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, advised MTN to make requests for spectrum licences it was interested in acquiring.

“We are open to further discussions in the areas of spectrum assignment. We will also check its availability,” he said.

He said that the commission would always play by the rules and support every operator within the ambits of the law.

Danbatta added, “I like to state that our word is our covenant. When we take decisions, we are concerned about the stability of the industry and there is no way we can guarantee it without considering the dominant status of MTN and its obligations; and if the dominant status is becoming stringent, we are open to engagement.

“We will be guided by what is happening in the market to ensure the growth and development of the sector.”

It could be recalled that MTN got six slots in the 2.6GHz auction and experts had envisaged the full utilisation of that spectrum.

Meanwhile, MTN said it had “implicit” confidence in its Nigerian operations, despite the grim challenges arising from the N330bn fine imposed on it by the NCC in October 2015.

Nhleko said the group had faith in Nigeria and would be willing to invest more in the sector in the years to come.

“We had challenges in the past, during the period of the fine, and we are grateful for the role the commission played towards an amicable resolution,” he said.

Nhleko, whose visit to the NCC management was a valedictory, added that the MTN Group “has injected over $16bn into the Nigerian operations.”

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