MTN Ghana poised to snap up unallocated 800MHz 4G spectrum

5 Apr 2019

Mobile network operator (MNO) MTN Ghana is lining up to purchase the two remaining 2×5MHz blocks of spectrum lots in the 800MHz band that were left unallocated after Vodafone Ghana acquired its own block of 2×5MHz for USD30 million last December, Adom News reports. ‘MTN intends to acquire this remaining spectrum to enable it to continue to give its customers an increasingly better experience on the network,’ MTN Corporate Services Executive Robert Kuzoe confirmed to Adom News in response to a questionnaire.

The MNO was precluded from the National Communications Authority (NCA’s) auction of three separate 2×5MHz spectrum lots in the 800MHz band at the end of last year, on the grounds that it had already acquired a 2×10MHz lot in the same band back in December 2015. While the NCA confirmed at the end of the 2018 spectrum auction that ‘two companies submitted applications, with Vodafone emerging as the only successful applicant,’ the regulator also indicated that other 800MHz spectrum holders would have the opportunity to buy the spectrum in case it was not allocated at the end of the process. MTN was one of those to enquire about the availability of the remaining spectrum and in January this year Robert Kuzoe submitted a formal application to purchase the two unallocated lots. Further, the cellco also confirmed that it recently acquired 2×15MHz in the 2600MHz band from Goldkey Telecoms, on the back of which it launched its 4G+ network with a stated download speed of up to 300Mbps – in a launch that came on the same day that rival MNO Vodafone Ghana launched its 4G services (some of which are already 4.5G-capable).

Some have greeted the development coolly, however, noting that should the NCA license MTN for the additional 800MHz spectrum, it would ‘defeat the whole purpose of creating a level playing field’, as promised by NCA chief Joe Anokye in early 2018. Adom News quotes an unnamed source as saying that if MTN is able to get its hands on the remaining lots it would have 2×20MHz in the 800MHz band and 2×15MHz in the 2600MHz – making Vodafone’s 2×5MHz allocation ‘relatively and completely insignificant in terms of speed and capacity’ and putting it at a significant disadvantage.