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Don’t give scarce national resources to MTN, it’ll impede competition – Firms warn NCC

MTN wants to practice in Nigeria what it felt was not good for the South African market – Operator……

Group of operators in the telecommunications industry have openly warned the Nigerian Communications Commission not to allow South African telecom giant, MTN to dominate the telecommunication market.

The operators insisted such undue advantage will impede competitions in the market.

Following the acquisition of 100 per cent equity of Visafone by MTN in 2015, Visafone had applied to the regulatory agency for the transfer of its frequency and licence to MTN.

But key players in the industry on Monday openly argued on why the commission should not transfer Visafone’s licence and spectrum to MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.

Although the NCC had approved the acquisition deal, it has yet to approve the transfer of the frequency and licence to MTN.

Another telecom giant, 9mobile had gone to court to challenge the transfer of the frequency to MTN.

At a public hearing in Abuja on Monday, Airtel and 9mobile argued that transferring Visafone’s 800 Megahertz spectrum would concentrate 38 per cent spectrum available in the country on MTN and thereby give the company undue advantage to further dominate the Nigerian telecommunications market.

According to a report monitored on The Punch NG, spokespersons for 9mobile, Oluseyi Osunsedo and Chigozie Arinze, said spectrum was a scarce national resource that should not be concentrated on one operator because it had the money to buy up whatever was available.

In their argument, they said allowing MTN to get the spectrum in question will impede competition in the telecommunications market.

They also posited that MTN had opposed a similar move by a dominant operator in South Africa and wondered why it should go ahead to practice what it felt was not good for the South African market.

The report also stated that the Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs, MTN, Johnson Oyewo, in countering the arguments said it was wrong to punish the firm for believing in the Nigerian market enough to invest heavily in spectrum acquisition.

According to him, the recently released spectrum trading guidelines offer operators alternative routes to the acquisition of spectrum as MTN’s acquisition of Visafone should not provoke jealousy in the industry.

Oyewo stated, “The mobile data market, which is the relevant market segment for 800MHz, was found to be effectively competitive by the NCC in its ‘2013 Determination of Dominance in Selected Markets’ with no operator found to be dominant in this market.

“Given that the market is effectively competitive, the utilisation of spectrum resources in order to provide the Nigerian telecommunications consumer a better data experience and ensure that the country meets its national broadband targets should be encouraged.

“In addition, the acquisition of Visafone does not constitute any of the conducts or practices capable of lessening competition as specified in Part II of Competition Practices Regulations, 2007.”

He added, “Other operators had the opportunity to acquire the 2.6GHz spectrum when it was auctioned by the NCC in 2016. Considering the fact that 2x40MHz in the 2.6GHz band is still available for sale, it will be improper for any operator to complain about spectrum consideration in one operator if they refuse to invest.

“In addition, concentration alone is not a sufficient reason to block a spectrum transfer provided the transaction does not result in consumer harm.

“The NCC, as a forward-looking regulator, should recognise distinct characteristics that the 800MHz spectrum offers, particularly in supporting rural coverage, and should consider that the cost benefits, which are passed to consumers, should suffice as compensation preventing a restriction in a transfer.”

Additional Reports from The Punch NG

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