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Did NCC renew MTN’s Digital Mobile License?

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By ADEDEJI FAKOREDE

NEWS went round recently that the Nigerian Communications‎ Commission (NCC) has extended MTN Nigeria’s operating license, however, investigation has shown the extension was granted in 2007 not 2015.
‎According to National Daily investigation, records available in Finance Department of NCC show that MTN paid for the extension of the license in 2007 from 10 years to 15 years.
But earlier in the year, in compliance with the ‎condition of the Digital Mobile License (DML) on renewal, MTN along with Airtel applied for the renewal of the DML which expires on February 8, 2015.
MTN had earlier claimed to have secured renewal of the tenure of its operating spectrum licence in the 900MHz and 1800MHz frequency bands, which it paid $94.2 million ($18.8 billion) to get.
From on set, MTN won the DML in 2001 for a period of 15 years commencing from September 2, 2001 to August 8, 2016, subject to automatic renewal was provided for in paragraph 3&4 of the DML license conditions.
A source in NCC, who pleaded anonymity, said that “In 2006, MTN, along with other licensees, was granted the Unified Access Service License (USAL) for a period of 10 years ‎commencing from September 1, 2006 to August 31, 2016.”
According to the Source, “In 2007, when MTN won the 2GHz Spectrum license, the Commission based on the Information ‎Memorandum (IM) requested MTN to pay for the extension of its USAL license (Based on letter dated August 3, 2007).”
National Daily could not readily confirm the amount MTN paid, ‎however, our Source said that after the consideration by the Commission it was decided that DML issuance will be discontinued as it had been subsumed under the UASL.
“However, the tenure of the Spectrum license being used for this service, 900MHz and 1800MHz would be harmonised ‎ to run concurrently with the UASL for administrative convenience”.
National Daily also gathered that the Commission by a letter dated July 27, 2015, had asked MTN to pay for the extension of the spectrum ‎till August 31, 2015, but based on MTN’s letter of August 6, 2015, was discovered that it had paid for an extension in 2007. ‎
According to our source, “There was no document to show that the extension was duly communicated to MTN. Accordingly, MTN has to pay for spectrum fee till 2021 instead of 2016 as easier advised.”
The commission Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, said the MTN licence was only harmonized, not renewed.
Ojobo, who said the licence hamonisation does not stop the sanction, which earned MTN N1.04 trillion fine, explained that the DML licence won by MTN in 2001 was for a period of 15 years (9/2/2001 to 8/2/2016), subject to automatic renewal as provided for in paragraph 3 and 4 of the DML licence condition.
“Also, in 2006, MTN (along with other licencees) was granted the Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) for a period of 10 years commencing from 1/9/2006 to 31/8/2016, which brought about the harmonisation.”
Another source at the commission, who spoke also faulted MTN’s claim, saying the process did not start yesterday as claimed by the telecommunications firm, but as far back as 2007
“In 2007, when MTN won the 2GHz Spectrum licence, the commission, based on the information memorandum, requested MTN to pay for the extension of tits UASL Licence, as communicated in a letter of 3rd August, 2007. Records available in finance department shows that MTN paid for the extension of the licence in 2007 from 10 years to 15 years.”
The source further explained that “early this year, in compliance with the condition of the DML licence on renewal as cited above, MTN, along with another licensee (Airtel), applied for the renewal of its DML licence, which expired on 8th February, 2006.
Also, after due consideration by the commission, the source said, it was decided that the DML issuance will be discontinued, as it has been subdued under the UASL. “However, the tenure of the spectrum licence being used for this service, 900MHz and 800MHz would be harmonised to run concurrently with the UASL for administrative convenience.
“The commission, by a letter dated 27th July, 2015, had asked MTN to pay for the extension of the spectrum till 31 August, 2015. However, based on MTN’s letter of 6th August, 2015, it was discovered that it had paid for an extension in 2007. There was, however, no document to show that the extension was duly communicated to MTN. Accordingly, MTN has to pay spectrum fees till 2021 instead of 2016 as earlier advised. That is the present situation.”
Efforts to reach MTN spokesman to comment on the new findings proved abortive, however, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck,‎ MTN Nigeria’s corporate affairs executive,‎ was quoted by Reuters‎ saying “We view this extension as a demonstration of confidence in MTN’s capacity to continue to provide ground-breaking and innovative services to its customers”.

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