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MTN gets more spectrum in Nigeria

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MTN Nigeria has acquired additional 10MHz spectrum in the 800MHz band from Intercellular Nigeria, saying the acquisition "will significantly improve customer experience" in the West African nation.

MTN said in a statement on Friday that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has approved the transaction and assigned the frequency to MTN Nigeria.

"Through this acquisition, we will be better positioned to support the deepening of broadband penetration in the country. The added resources will also greatly impact our customers' experience providing even better Internet connectivity," said new MTN Nigeria CEO Karl Toriola, who took up the role at the beginning of March.

MTN will want to increase its capacity as the need for digital services and mobile data demand continues to grow in the country.

MTN Nigeria said its data traffic rose by 126.5% during 2020, and average usage was up 64%. Data revenue also rose by 51.2% for the year.

The company added an extra 7.4 million active data subscribers during 2020, bringing its total up to 32.6 million data users. Overall, MTN has 76.5 million subscribers in Nigeria, with over 12 million new customers added last year.

The telco focused on growing its 4G footprint in Nigeria and said its 4G network now covers 60% of the country, up from 43.8% in 2019.

The Nigerian division of the pan-African operator put out strong results for the year ended December 31, 2020 – with service revenue growing by 14.7% for the year to 1.3 trillion Naira (US$3.4 billion) while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) grew 9.7% to N685.7 billion ($1.8 billion).

MTN is the biggest operator in Nigeria with over 38% market share. It is followed by Globacom Nigeria (Glo) and Airtel Nigeria, each with about 27.5%; and 9Mobile, with less than 7% market share, according to statistics from market research company Omdia.

The operator is also at the moment trying to make sure it gets over half its subscriber base in Nigeria properly registered by a government deadline of April 6, 2021.

About 39 million MTN customers risk having their SIM cards blocked next month if they don't make a deadline to link valid National Identification Numbers (NINs) to their mobile numbers.

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*Top image is of new MTN Nigeria CEO Karl Toriola (Source: MTN).

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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