Lagos-based MTEL, the recently relaunched mobile division of national PTO NITEL, says it will roll out 1.2 million mobile lines by the end of January 2004 in a bid to improve the country’s woeful teledensity. MTEL currently has around 300,000 lines installed, up from the 100,000 or so that it has been struggling to improve on over the last two years. On 10 December the cellco relaunched GSM services in the capital cities of all 36 states in Nigeria and began offering per-second billing services – the last operator in the country to do so.
Parent company NITEL embarked on an extensive investment programme during 2002 and has committed over USD150 million to its wireless subsidiary. In order to raise the finance required for, the operator underwent an attempted privatisation during 2002. This process failed, but as an alternative NITEL will come under external management during 2003 and an IPO of 20% of its equity was scheduled to be floated on the Nigerian stock exchange (NSE) during 2003. As a prelude to the awarding of the management contract, NITEL was reissued with its operating licence in November 2002 which sets clear targets. This requires that the operator roll out 600,000 lines within 36 months and 1.2 million lines within 60 months (five years) as well as performance targets which, amongst other things, state that within twelve months the operator must achieve a call completion rate of 70% for local calls and 60% for international calls.