The government of Benin Republic has awarded Nigeria’s second national telecoms carrier, Globacom, a licence to provide GSM services. The company came top in an auction that pitched it against unnamed competitors from Libya and several other African countries. Reports from Cotonou said Globacom won the bid on the strength of its technical superiority, and its promise to roll out a network within three months.
Last month Benin hit the headlines when it suspended the licences of the country’s two largest GSM operators, Areeba Benin (part of the MTN Group) and Moov Telecom (part of Etisalat’s Atlantique Telecom), following an acrimonious dispute over regulatory fees. The move has left over a million wireless subscribers without service for over a month. The government demanded the pair agree to a new licence fee, some five times higher than the original levy, on the basis that both had changed ownership from the time of licensing, without informing the authorities. The suspension of the licences – which is ongoing – apparently prompted the government to hold an auction for an additional GSM licensee to take the country’s total to five; there are two other cellcos present, state-owned Libercon and Bell Benin.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Globacom is Nigeria’s second national operator (SNO), and was awarded licences to provide GSM, fixed voice, data and long-distance telephony services in August 2002, for which it paid USD200 million. It launched mobile services within the year, but wireline offerings have been much delayed, even though the award of the licence carried a commitment to provide 1.4 million fixed lines within five years. The mobile licence was originally included as a sweetener to raise the value of the SNO concession, but also to resolve the lingering issue of how to award the country’s fourth GSM licence. The company became the fastest growing mobile operator in the country, signing up a million subscribers in the first nine months of operations, and claimed nine million customers by March 2007.
Globacom is majority owned by Nigerian petrochemical firm Conpetro, which is itself owned by entrepreneur Mike Adenuga. The company is 100%-owned by Nigerian investors.