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Telecoms regulator suspends issuance of fresh licences to Virtual Network Operators, others

*The Nigerian Communications Commission announces temporary suspension of new licences to Mobile Virtual Network Operators, Interconnect Exchange and Value-Added Service aggregators in a move to ensure a ‘thorough review’ of the operators’ market saturation and competition in the country’s telecoms space

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In a bid to ensure a thorough review of the operators’ market saturation and competition, in the country’s telecoms ecosystem, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced the temporary suspension of new licences to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), Interconnect Exchange, and Value-Added Service (VAS) aggregators.

ConsumerConnect reports Mr. Reuben Muoka, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, who disclosed this development in a public notice issued Friday, May 17, 2024, noted that the suspension of fresh licences to operators in these service categories would commence same day.

The telecoms sector regulatory Commission has described an MVNO as a company that does not own a mobile spectrum licence, but sells mobile services under its brand name, using the network of a licensed mobile operator in Nigeria.

With at least 25 operators as of now, it is also noted that the Commission, in 2023, began the issuance of licences to MVNOs in the West African country.

The interconnect exchange is a network facility that enables the interconnection of more than two independent connecting entities to facilitate the transfer of electronic communications, while VAS aggregators are non‐core network telecommunication services which are beyond standard voice calls.

These services include Internet, directory service, paging service, voice mail and prepaid calling card service, call centre services, content services, and vehicle tracking.

Rationale for temporarily suspending issuance of new licences, by NCC

In regard to the reason for the latest decision, the NCC said the suspension is aimed at ensuring a thorough review of the operators’ market saturation and competition.

Muoka also stated: “In line with its powers under the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 to grant and renew licences, promote fair competition and develop the Communications Industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission (the Commission) hereby informs all stakeholders of a temporary suspension on issuance of new licenses in the following categories.

“Interconnect exchange licence; mobile virtual network operator License; value added service aggregator licence.”

The Commission said: “This temporary suspension is necessary to enable the Commission to conduct a thorough review of several key areas within these categories, including the current level of competition, market saturation and current market dynamics.

“The public is invited to note that during the suspension period commencing on 17th of May, 2024, new applications for the aforementioned licenses will not be accepted.”

Meanwhile, the NCC has said that such pending applications in the affected service categories before the suspension would be considered on merit.

It equally urged applicants to forward enquiries to licensing@ncc.gov.ng for clarification with respect to the suspension notice.

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