Telecommunications firm, Airtel has completed payment for its Fifth Generation (5G) network license in Nigeria. The firm coughed out $316.7 million for the 5G license and 4G spectrum to the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Yesterday, the parent company of the Nigerian subsidiary, Airtel Africa Plc, which trades its shares on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited, disclosed this.
In a regulatory notice at the NGX, the firm said the $316.7 million for the 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band and 2x5MHz of 2600MHz would be paid to the regulator in Naira.
A senior official at the NCC confirmed to The Guardian yesterday that Airtel paid for the 5G license about two weeks ago, precisely December 2022.
The NCC had in a statement, disclosed that by the close of business on December 5, 2022, only two companies, Airtel and Standard Network & Connections Limited (Standard Network) expressed interest in the auction of the 3.5GHz Spectrum band for 5G deployment in the second auction.
The commission, however, said only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by 12 working days, which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable.
The Commission stated that Airtel having met all the provisions in the IM, has, therefore, emerged as the sole bidder. “There shall be no further bidding and the Commission will proceed to the Assignment Stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process.” Airtel paid $273.6 million for the 5G licence.
With the licenses, Airtel said this would ensure that its subscribers enjoy better Internet services. Checks by The Guardian showed that as of November 2022, out of the 320 million connected telephone lines in Nigeria, Airtel services 59.3 million users, which is about 27.16 per cent market reach.
“This additional spectrum will support our investments in network expansion for both mobile data and fixed wireless home broadband capability, including 5G rollout, providing significant capacity to accommodate our continued strong data growth in the country and exceptional customer experience,” a part of the disclosure stated.
The GSM network provider stated that the penetration of data customers in Nigeria remains low, providing significant opportunities for future growth.
“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. The key benefits of 5G will include higher speeds, lower latency, significant network capacity as well as an 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 our already strong spectrum position in the market to enhance network capacity and future-proof our growth opportunity,” it stated.
While commenting on the acquisition, the group chief executive of Airtel Africa, Segun Ogunsanya, stated that, “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.
“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.”