AUTHOR: Bunmi Aduloju
Airtel Africa says its Nigerian subsidiary, Airtel Nigeria, has acquired fourth-generation (4G) and fifth-generation (5G) spectrums from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for a cumulative price of $316.7 million.
Simon O‘Hara, Airtel Africa’s secretary, made this known on Monday in a corporate filing on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX).
The telco said it purchased 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band and 2x5MHz of 2600MHz from the NCC for a gross consideration of $316.7 million, “payable in local currency”.
“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,” the statement reads.
“Airtel Nigeria is Airtel Africa’s largest market, with significant growth potential. The company led the industry in providing affordable 4G services across the country following the deployment of a fully modernised network which facilitated a four-fold increase in data traffic over the last three years.”
It said 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 telco said.
“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.”
Speaking on the acquisition, Segun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer (CEO), Airtel Africa, said Nigeria is a market with enormous potential for future growth in mobile services.
He said 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,” Ogunsanya said.
In 2021, Airtel dropped out of the bidding process for 5G deployment while MTN and Mafab Communications emerged as winners of the 5G spectrum auction.
However, in October 2022, the NCC put up another two slots in the 3.5GHz spectrum band for auction, to boost deployment of 5G services in Nigeria.
NCC , in December 2022, confirmed Airtel as the sole bidder of the 5G licence after a payment of $27.36 million as an intention-to-bid deposit (IBD).