New Telegraph

NCC renews MTN’s licence for 10 years

…generates N143.2bn from two operators

Telecommunications regulator, Nigerian Communicat ions Commission (NCC), has renewed the operating licence of MTN Nigeria, New Telegraph has learnt. According to the licensees’ database of the Commission, MTN’s current Unified Access Services (UAS) licence, which is to expire by August 31, 2021, has now been extended by another 10 years to expire on August 31, 2031. MTN’s operating spectrum, which was issued along with the digital-mobile licence in 2001, had an original expiry date of February 2016.

The company, however, paid the sum of $94.2 million in 2015 to secure the licence for the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands and the extension for another five years, which is to expire August this year While there is no official confirmation of the amount paid for the renewal by MTN, Airtel Nigeria had officially announced it paid N71.6 billion ($189 million) for the same 10-year tenured UAS licence in January this year. With this, the Commission may have raked in a total of N143.2 billion from the two operators for the licence renewals. Announcing the approval of its licence by NCC earlier this year, Airtel Nigeria said its current operating permit was renewed for another 10 years. Airtel was issued a Universal Access Service License (UASL) in 2006, which is to expire on November 30, 2021.

The parent body of the Nigerian unit, Airtel Africa, said NCC had approved the renewal of spectrum licences in 900 and 1800 Megahertz (MHZ) for its subsidiary, Airtel Nigeria. Spectrums are radio frequencies allocated to mobile industries and other sectors for communication over the airwaves. Airtel Nigeria is the largest operating unit of Airtel Africa, which operates in 14 countries. According to the group’s Chief Executive Officer, Raghunath Mandava, the licence renewal followed an application to the telecoms regulator.

He added that NCC subsequently offered the telco the opportunity to renew its spectrum licences for 10 years with effect from December 1, 2021, until November 30, 2031, which the company accepted. Mandava added that under the terms of the spectrum licences, Airtel Nigeria had paid N 71.6 billion ($189 million) in respect of the licence renewal fees.

“I am pleased to announce that our application in Nigeria to renew our spectrum licenses in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for a 10-year period, has been approved by NCC. “This is our largest market and we remain focused on bridging the digital divide and expanding our broadband capability in the country. On behalf of Airtel Nigeria and the group, I would like to thank both the government of Nigeria and the NCC for their cooperation and support in this important process,” he said. Meanwhile, Globacom, which has a 20-year national carrier licence issued on September 1, 2002, will see it expire on August 31, 2022.

The fourth GSM operator, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS) Limited, trading as 9mobile, will also be expected to renew its licence before its expiration on August 5, 2023. Through such licence renewals and spectrum sales, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, had recently disclosed that the commission had generated and remitted a total of N362.344 billion contributed to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) in the last five years, thereby boosting the revenue drive of the Federal Government. Amplifying this in an interview at a recent programme in Abuja, Danbatta said: “Although NCC’s primary role is not to generate revenue for the government, but to nurture and regulate the industry, figures obtained from the commission show impressive remittance of funds to the coffers of the consolidated revenue of the Federal Government, especially in the last five years.” Danbatta disclosed that from its yearly audited accounts, NCC contributed about N362.344 billion of its remittances into the Federal Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) in accordance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007.

The various spectrum auctions done by the NCC since the telecoms revolution started in Nigeria almost two decades ago have fetched the government huge revenue as well. For instance, in 2001, MTN and Airtel (Econet) paid $285 million for their cellular licences. Globacom and Etisalat also paid in 2002 and 2008 respectively before they commenced commercial services. In the first five years of the revolution, the report shows that over $400 million had accrued to government coffers from spectrum sales alone.

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