In a bid to provide telecom service, and bridge the access gap between 27 million people living in rural, unserved, and underserved areas in Nigeria, who have no access to telephony networks, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) plans to use the newly licenced Mobile Virtual Operators (MVNO) to bridge the gap.
These MVNOs are wireless communication service providers that resell mobile network services bought at wholesale prices from Mobile Network Operators (MNO), such as 9mobile, Airtel, MTN, and Glo, for discounted amounts to end users and customers.
They need not have any infrastructure as they can ride on the existing MNO’s infrastructure in the country after a proper agreement must have been reached.
This development implies that the telecoms space would further be democratised, paving the way for improved service offerings and competitive pricing, especially around voice and data.
However, Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said that Since 2013, the number of identified access gaps has gone down from 207 to 97 in 2022, amounting to a reduction of 110 clusters, representing a 53.1 percent reduction.
“As a result of this, the number of Nigerians residing in areas lacking telecom services, estimated to be 37 million in 2013, has been reduced to 27 million. The increased access to telecom services has enabled these previously excluded individuals to become digitally connected.” he said.
Danbatta, who was represented by Usman Mamman, the Head of Pre-Licensing at the Commission, disclosed this at a recent telecoms industry stakeholders forum in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state.
According to him, part of the regulatory interventions of the Commission to bridge the remaining 97 access across the country to provide ubiquitous connectivity in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria is the issuance of the MVNO Licences and the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) networks, among others.
To expedite the process, the NCC has issued licences to 25 different MVNO operators, categorised from tier 1 to tier 5. The currently licenced companies fall into categories 2 to 5, with no company acquiring a tier 1 license, which is the lowest tier.
The NCC database reveals that seven companies have been licenced in the tier two category, and these include Routelink Integrated Systems Ltd, Hazon Technologies Limited, Asel Telecom Nigeria Limited, Briclinks Africa Plc, Pisi Mobile Services Limited, Univasa Nigeria Limited, and Imose Technologies Limited.
In the tier three category, there are also seven licenced companies, such as Amics Technologies Limited, Zegtel Limited, Telewyz Limited, Siu Telecommunications Network, Abrindex Nigeria Limited, Metropolitan Consortium Nigeria Limited, and IPNX Nigeria Limited.
Those licenced as tier four operators include Imbil Telecoms Solutions Nig. Ltd, Environmental Expressions Limited, and DMK Telecommunication Nigeria Ltd.
In the tier five category, eight companies were licenced. These include Systegra Technologies Limited; Choffan Communications Limited, Mab Consultant and Associates Ltd, H & Y Business Global Limited, Taima Technologies Ltd, Global Communication Extension Services Ltd, USKS Ventures International Ltd, and Paribas Communication Limited.
Furthermore, through the issuance of the MNVO licence to the 25 companies, the telecoms regulator generated not less than N5.9 billion for the government in licensing fees. According to the framework released by the NCC, the 10-year tenured MNVO licences come at different prices.
The highest in the categories, the tier-five licence costs N500 million, while tier-four goes for N200 million. Both the tier-three and tier-two licences cost N130 million and N60 million respectively, while the tier-one licence is to be issued at N35 million.
Kunle Azeez, media\public relation officer, NCC said these operators don’t look for where these MNOs operate, but go to areas where these telecom operators can’t reach.
In his words: “To keep up to date with developments in the industry, the Commission has equally taken measures to improve regulations to accommodate the rapid and continuous development. Some of the interventions and responses of the Commission include but are not limited to facilitating the roll-out of 5G Service provision, and the introduction of a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Licence to bridge the gap between unserved and underserved areas.”