Quartet barred from buying NITEL mobile unit

19 Oct 2009

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has disqualified four GSM licence holders from buying M-Tel, the mobile division of Nigeria’s ailing incumbent telco NITEL, if the national carrier is sold as a single unbundled unit. MTN, Globacom, Etisalat and Zain all hold licences to provide GSM services in the Nigerian mobile market and under advice from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will not be able to acquire rival cellco M-Tel, but are permitted to buy NITEL as a standalone unit. Last week the bureau decided to unbundle NITEL and sell each part separately, or as a combination, subject to ‘regulatory restrictions’, in order to help the government make more money from the privatisation process. NITEL is expected to be broken down into GSM wireless unit M-Tel; long-distance licence and infrastructure (fibre and microwave); international licences, including 3No international gateway and SAT-3 submarine cable access; and fixed network assets, including its CDMA fixed-wireless network, digital switches, external line plants cable network and metropolitan fibre-optic networks. The company’s CDMA fixed-wireless network could be upgraded to a CDMA mobile network if the purchaser obtains a universal access service licence and value added services licence. Earlier this month, the BPE extended the deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids for NITEL from 2 October to 26 October.