Nigeria: MTN, Globacom Move to Improve Network Capacity, Pay $300 Million for 3G Licences

Technology & Convergence

Nigeria is finally all set to move to the next generation mobile telephony operation with two of the country's three major operators, MTN Nigeria and Globacom meeting their financial obligation to the Nigerian Communications Commission's (NCC) requirement of $150 million payment each for their respective 3G licences.

Both operators who had eagerly anticipated the final nod from the regulatory agency, were prepared when it came, and they gleefully went to town rejoicing. Chris Ehimen, Globacom Head of Consumer Marketing said with the allocation of frequency spectrum to Glo by the NCC, it was now ready to launch 3G services in the country.

The NCC's letter of final approval and spectrum allocation to Globacom via letter dated 16 April 2007 was signed by Ms. Josephine Amuwa. "After pioneering 2.5G services in the Nigerian market, the launch of 3G services by Glo mobile is the natural evolution for a company committed to providing subscribers the tools to 'rule their world', said Ehimen.

MTN Nigeria which also got its final nod at the weekend has announced all its new switches will be the Soft Switch Technology Next Generation Switches from Ericsson to cater for increased traffic carrying capacity which will enhance easy access to the Network.

MTN which is Nigeria's leading mobile operator with over 11 million subscribers said it has commenced a massive network expansion which is aimed at providing world-class quality service to its teeming subscribers across the country. "The network expansion, which started early this year, will cost the company over $650 million and should provide the necessary infrastructure for 3G services.

It will be recalled that MTN Nigeria was recently the first GSM operator to have paid and been awarded a 3G licence by the Nigerian Communications Commission and has since paid $150 million for the licence," said Andrew Okeleke, MTN Nigeria External Affairs Manager.

The acquisition of the 3G license will provide the appropriate technology for innovative products and services in the area of multi-media streaming and communication. Mr. Ahmad Farroukh, MTN Nigeria CEO, said the "massive expansion will involve additional 14 switches being integrated into the current 41 switches in 12 switching centres, while the current 2661 base stations spread around the country are expected to increase to over 3,500 before the end of this year. All our new switches will be of the Soft Switch Technology Next Generation variety, which caters for increased traffic capacity."

MTN's network presently covers 578 Local Government Areas, amounting to 534,012.68SqKm or 58.33percent of Nigeria landmass. Similarly, approximately 95 million people or about 81 percent of Nigeria's population are within areas covered by MTN Nigeria.

The company has expended more than $ 3Billion over a five year period, in the development of the network and its cutting edge features. Farroukh said that MTN Nigeria has also launched IP/MPLS network into major cities to provide high value data services to business customers and improve business technology. "This latest technology is capable of carrying Video, Data, and Voice at the same time," he assured.

The aggressive network expansion programme will also see MTN Nigeria undertaking dual band upgrades on 571 base stations and normal cabinet upgrades on 105 base stations to provide additional dependable network capacity. Similarly, additional 70 core nodes will be integrated for high quality service on the network before the end of 2007.

Globacom is also expected to build on high capacity with the 3G addition having pioneered a number of products since coming on stream in 2003. Despite its late entrance to the Nigerian mobile market, the indigenous operator has proved to be a great success in service delivery.

"With 3G platform, Nigerians would be offered high speed internet access, video calling and video streaming, phone-to-phone video telephony, video greeting kiosk and video mail box. We are empowering our subscribers with the next generation of technological advances available in advanced countries. This will inevitably benefit the lives and businesses of the subscribers that utilize these products," said Ehimen.

3G is a third generation technology in the context of mobile phone standards and capable of transferring data at speeds of up to 384kps thereby allowing both voice and data to be transferred simultaneously. According to Ehimen, Glo 3G network is expected to reach 1.8Mbps using HSDPA.

Vanguard Lagos, 30th April 2007