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Spectrum License Fracas in Nigeria

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Airtel and 9mobile have voiced major concerns to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) about the planned transfer of the 800MHz spectrum license previously held by now defunct CDMA mobile operator Visafone Communications to MTN Nigeria, claiming that the latter will have an unfair competitive advantage from holding too much spectrum in the growing mobile market.

The concerns were raised during a public inquiry held on June 25 into the planned transfer of the license and other Visafone assets to MTN, which had originally agreed the acquisition in 2016.

The operators are not happy that MTN will be allowed to acquire all of Visafone's 800MHz spectrum, which is very useful for provisioning 4G services, as this will give MTN an even greater share of the available airwaves, further enhancing the position of the market leader: MTN Nigeria's market share stands at about 36% in a market of nearly 150 million users. Airtel Nigeria and Globacom both have about 26% market share, while 9mobile's share has been slipping while its ownership has been in limbo and now stands at around 11%.

The row over the spectrum comes as 9mobile's future still hangs in the balance: Its prospective new owner, Teleology, has until July 25 to pay the outstanding $251 million acquisition price to secure the acquisition, reports Nigeria news outlet This Day. (See Teleology Closes In on 9mobile Acquisition.)

— The staff, Connecting Africa

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