MTN Nigeria recently received a confirmation letter from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), acknowledging the payment of N71.6 billion fee for the renewal of the telco’s spectrum licence for the next 10 years and another payment of N374.6 million for the renewal of its Universal Access Service (UAS) licence for the next 10 years.
The total renewal licence renewal fees, which was N72 billion, had been generating concerns among industry analysts, who felt the amount was outrageous.
The Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, told THISDAY, a Nigerian newspaper through a telephone conversation that the commission based its license fees on the category of the available licenses.
According to him, “NCC charges a uniform and standard rate for Universal Access Service (UAS) licence, but charges differently for the spectrum licence, based on the category of licence and the number of licences obtained by a particular operator.”
Also, after a detailed comparison between the $285 million that MTN and Econet Wireless Nigeria (Now Airtel Nigeria) paid for their initial licence fee in 2001, the President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said the amount paid by MTN Nigeria, was fair enough when compared to the current value of dollars.
“Converting the N71.6 billion to dollar at the official rate of N411 per dollar, one will arrive at $174.2 million, which I think is fair when compared to the $285 million that MTN paid in 2001 as licence fee. The reason being that renewal of licence fee is supposed to be lower that the actual licence fee itself,” Ogunbanjo said.
A source close to MTN, however, said the telco may have paid the amount because it covered the renewal of three different licences.
The source explained that the N71.6 billion was for the renewal of two licences – the 900MHz licence and the 1800MHz licence, while the N374.6 million was for the renewal of another licence called the UAS licence.
The source added that Airtel may not pay as much as MTN if it was renewing only one or two licences.
In a letter signed by the Company Secretary to MTN Nigeria, Uto Ukpanah, and sighted by THISDAY, MTN Nigeria expressed happiness that the NCC has formally notified the telecoms company of the renewal of its Unified Access Service (UAS) licence and spectrum licence for wireless local loop in the 900MHz and 1800MHz band, subject to licemce conditions, including additional amounts under discussion.
Commenting on the renewals, the CEO of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Karl Toriola said: “Renewing our licences for another 10 years is very important to our business and enables us to continue to provide services to ensure the benefits of a modern connected life for our people. MTN is delighted with its strong partnership with the NCC and looks forward to working closely with the commission and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, to accelerate the growth of Nigeria’s digital economy.”
Toriola said the spectrum licence would enable it provide its 3G and 4G technology services to its over 73 million subscribers in Nigeria.
While the 900MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum band are used mainly for voice, MTN uses its 2600MHz spectrum licence for 4G, which is mainly for data.
In a recent interview, Toriola had said: “In support of Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan in 2021, MTN plans to have additional 510 2G; 616 3G; 4,745 4G sites as well as 200 U900; 1,226 fiber to site and 232 E-Band connections.”