The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has further angered the country’s GSM operators with its unified licensing scheme by suggesting that they will not automatically have their concessions renewed when the new system comes in next year. The licence scheme being introduced in February 2006 will allow CDMA service providers to compete head-to-head with GSM operators nationwide, instead of being limited to coverage of specific geographic areas only. This means they will be operating in direct competition to the GSM cellcos, whose call charges are on average six-times higher.
The GSM operators’ claim that the new legislation will discourage investment in the sector and further weaken an industry blighted by outdated facilities and high taxes. The NCC has countered, however, by saying that the move will increase take-up of services. The regulator has now stipulated that all prospective operators – whether currently GSM or CDMA – must reapply for the new concessions. ‘Operators wishing to migrate to a unified licence will have to apply and meet the conditions specified in the licensing framework,’ Ernest Ndukwe, head of the NCC, told Reuters.