Business Hilights
Tracking Nigeria's Headline Business News Online

MTN plans massive BTS to deepen 4G, 3G services

The lead telecoms services provider, MTN Nigeria has revealed its plans for 2017 in Nigeria, thus putting to rest speculations that the South African giant is planning exit due to incessant fines from the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and endless probe by the lawmakers.

Earlier this month, a senior executive of MTN Nigeria had told Business Journal during a chance meeting in Lagos that the group may exit the Nigerian market over what it terms incessant imposition of fines and penalties on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and endless harassment by the National Assembly through Senate probes, efforts to get official response on the development have failed.

The senior staff had alleged that “Nigeria of today is a very hostile operating environment for MTN. Can you imagine that the NCC imposed a $5.2 billion/N1.04 trillion fine on MTN over unregistered SIM cards, tarnishing the brand reputation of the company across the world”.

Continuing, the official said “It seems very clear that the NCC EVC, Danbatta came into office with a negative mindset to kill MTN. And before we could recover from that dark episode, the Senate began harassing the company over alleged illegal transfer of $13.2 billion. I can tell you that one or two directors of MTN are already discussing the possibility of MTN leaving Nigeria if the endless hostility of NCC and Senate continues unabated this year.”

Facts are clear that due to breaches of a regulation MTN was part of, the NCC had imposed a fine of $5.2 billion on MTN in 2015 over sale of unregistered SIM cards. The fine was later reduced to N330 billion over a period of three years.

But in keeping with their oversight functions, the Senate commenced investigation against MTN Nigeria over alleged illegal transfer of $13.2 billion from Nigeria to its headquarters in South Africa through Diamond Bank, Citigroup, Stanbic IBTC and Standard Chartered Bank.

According to latest figures from the NCC, MTN Nigeria is the largest telecom operator in Nigeria with 39.91 percent of the market as at November 30, 2016. This translates to 61.2 million subscribers.

But in a more recent interview, the Head, Public Relations and Protocol, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Funso Aina, said, “We plan to roll out as many new BTS as possible this year, most especially sites that are fully optimised for 4G coverage. We also intend to consolidate our 3G coverage in many areas too.”

Pundits in telecoms sector say the extent of investments that MTN has made in Nigeria over the years and is still making have grown to an unquantifiable limit and still growing.

Only recently, MTN was the sole buyer of some six slots of 2.6GHz auctioned by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to deepen 4G LTE on its network.

Even before the latest investment on 2.6GHz which other telecoms group ran away complaining that the reserve price only favoured deep pocket investors, MTN had invested in the released 700GHz digital dividends to the tune of N34bn and it is important to note that the money it paid for the digital dividend is the only fund available for the running of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) campaign of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

The Minister of Communications, Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu recently revealed that investment and deployment of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is now catapulting Nigeria from the status of developing nation to a developed world. This cannot be possible if MTN subscriber base in Q3 did not rise to 60.5 million (QoQ)  out of the current national subscriber base of about 165million, and the smartphones on its network did not hit 19.2m within the period under review.

Business Hilights notes that in the latest NCC statistics for November 2016, mobile subscription jumped from less than 500,000 in 2001 to over 153 million; while teledensity moved up from less than one per cent to over 107 per cent; while mobile Internet subscription has risen from base zero to close to 100 million.