• Friday, June 14, 2024
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5G battle thickens as Airtel pays $316.7m for licence, additional spectrum

The Hook, Airtel Nigeria partner on multimillion-naira creative campaigns

Airtel Africa, the third largest telecom operator in Nigeria has paid $316.7 million for the 5G spectrum it won in December and an additional 4G spectrum, according to a notice the company filed on the Nigerian Exchange on Monday.

The notice signed by Simon O’Hara, Group Company Secretary, Airtel and published on the NGX site, showed that Airtel Africa secured the 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band and 2x5MHz of 2600MHz from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), paying in local currency.

A source in the NCC confirmed the payment was made about two weeks ago. Reuben Muoka, director of communications, NCC said the commissions would be following the Information Memorandum guideline for the release of any information regarding payment for the 5G licence. Nevertheless, Airtel being a listed company has obligation to inform its shareholders that it has made the payment.

However, by securing the 5G licence which it won as a sole bidder in December 2022, Airtel sets the battleground with incumbent MTN and soon-to-lunch Mafab for control of the emerging 5G market in Nigeria. At the moment, MTN has a first-movers advantage haven launched its service in Lagos on September 2022.

Mafab is yet to respond to questions about its preparation to launch its service this month. The NCC had given the new telecom operator until January 2023 to launch its 5G service or risk losing the licence it acquired alongside MTN in December 2021.

Read also: NCC declares Airtel sole bidder of 3.5GHz spectrum auction

Airtel says the additional spectrum will support investments in network expansion for both mobile data and fixed wireless home broadband capability, including 5G rollout, providing significant capacity to accommodate strong data growth in Nigeria and exceptional customer experience.

“The acquisition of 5G spectrum will underpin our growth strategy by enabling the launch of higher speed connectivity to enhance customer service and accelerate digitalisation for consumers, enterprises, and the public sector,” O’Hara said.

Airtel is widely considered the network that is capable of giving MTN major competition in the 5G market given its substantial investments in network infrastructure and vast financial resources. In August 2022, Airtel Africa announced that it has signed a $125 million revolving credit facility with an investment banking institution, Citigroup Inc, via its sub-Saharan Africa branch offices.

“Nigeria is a market with enormous potential for future growth in mobile services. Investment in new technologies and local infrastructure to enable this growth is a strategic priority for the Group and will ensure we are able to provide reliable and affordable services to local communities across the country,” Segun Ogunsanya, CEO of Airtel Africa, said. “5G is critical to these ambitions, and we look forward to launching new services to drive further digitalisation across the country, facilitate economic progress and transform lives across Nigeria.”

Airtel listed the benefits of 5G as higher speeds, lower latency, significant network capacity as well as improved user experience.

Furthermore, the deployment of 5G will accelerate the availability and efficiency of fixed wireless access products across the country, contributing towards Airtel Nigeria’s progress in meeting the National Broadband Plan targets. The acquisition of 2600MHz spectrum will complement Airtel’s already strong spectrum position in the market to enhance network capacity and futureproof its growth opportunity.