THE acquisition of the telecom firm, 9mobile, by MTN, regarded as a giant in Nigeria’s telecom sector, will create an oligopoly market, according to experts in the industry.
National President of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) in Nigeria, Mr Deolu Ogunbanjo, National President of has called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to intervene to halt the acquisition and save the nation’s telecoms market.
According to the Technology Times, the MTN Group, has reached advanced stages of negotiations to acquire the operating spectrum of 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, for its local mobile unit, MTN Nigeria. The 9mobile is the number four mobile network operator (MNO) in Nigeria.
Ogunbanjo had noted that it came as a surprise that MTN was talking through NCC to acquire another spectrum belonging to another mobile network operator, which has less than 10 per cent of the market subscription.
“This should not be encouraged because of the fact that already, MTN is having close to 50% of Nigeria’s telecoms market subscription,” he said.
He believes that if MTN is allowed to get the 9mobile spectrum, “the next thing would be that you want is to acquire them, meaning that MTN will now be having between 50% and 60% of the total telecoms subscription in Nigeria. And that is a form of oligopoly.”
He continued: “It is an oligopoly in the sense that there would become three major players. However, a particular player now has a lot of influence, which is more than 50%. That shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt. And that should not be encouraged because MTN will become so powerful to the extent that it will now be dictating the pace.
“Whatever it wants to do in the telecoms industry in Nigeria, that is what would obtain, because it is having over 50% and getting close to 60% of Nigeria’s total telecoms subscription. I do not also understand why the mobile network operator in question is now allowing MTN, through the NCCto have a shot at their spectrum.”
Ogunbanjo says that the telecoms industry regulator, NCC, should intervene to protect the Nigerian telecoms market and safeguard the interest of other operators and consumers alike from what his group fears as market capture by the nation’s largest MNO, MTN Nigeria.
Despite the deregulation in Nigeria’s telecoms industry, NATCOMS President explains that there are potential competition issues specific to the MTN-9mobile trade talks, which if not addressed by NCC, may undermine the telecoms market growth in the country.
He explains that “NCC should also understand that the interests of the telecoms industry is also paramount. Yes, free entry, free exit but not to the detriment of Nigeria’s large subscription market as well as Nigeria’s telecoms sector.”
Allowing MTN acquire 9mobile’s spectrum, “would mean that other operators would now be struggling to compete favourably with MTN, which has been having the money and all that to acquire spectrums and all that.”
Meanwhile, according to NCC, as at August 2023, Nigeria’s active phone connections reached 20,715,961 subscribers with the market share split among the four major MNOs: MTN Nigeria, 85,005,917 (38.58%); Glo, 61,395,108 (27.86%); Airtel Nigeria, 60,169,082 (27.30%) and 9mobile, 13,791,079 (6.26%).