Lagos-based mobile operator MTN Nigeria has said that it has invested USD1.4 billion into rolling out its GSM network, in a bid to provide much needed efficient communications services in the country and to maintain its position as one of the market leaders in the region. According to MTN’s chief executive officer Adrian Wood, close to half of the sum has been plowed into launching a new product, ProTime, which is targeted at middle class professionals, offering benefits such as lower tariffs, uninterrupted talk time, increased convenience and the ability to migrate from the company’s existing Pay As You Go option. He said that USD120 million has been spent on constructing a nationwide 3,400km SDH microwave radio transmission backbone, while a further USD140 million has been earmarked for providing electricity generators for its sites and installations. The CEO went on to add that MTN had already deployed more than 300 base stations and eight mobile switching centres in Nigeria, with plans to commission a further six switches within the next few months.
MTN Nigeria is part of the M-Cell/MTN Group which also has mobile operations in South Africa, Cameroon, Rwanda Swaziland and Uganda. Incorporated as a private company on 8 November 2000, MTN Nigeria paid USD285 million to secure a GSM licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission the following February and made its first network call in May 2001. Full commercial launch followed in August that year initially in the cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, since when coverage has been extended to 30 cities (or 27% of the population) including Aba, Onitsha, Owerri, Asaba, and Abeokuta, and 60 smaller towns and villages in between; the company ultimately plans to cover 95% or more of the Nigerian population. Although the MTN Group does not release separate figures for MTN, by the end of June 2002 the Group had 5,078,000 mobile subscribers to its networks, a 6.4% rise on the previous quarter.