Could mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) finally be coming to Nigeria? It seems likely given the recent publication by the country’s telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), of what it calls a License Framework For the Establishment Of Mobile Virtual Network Operators in Nigeria.
The 18-page document is nothing if not detailed, including among its proposals a tiered license offering, varying from tier one (N30 or US$72,162) to tier five (N250 million / $601,352.50),offering varying levels of service capability depending on the price paid.
All licences will be valid for ten years, with an option to renew the licence for another ten years.
Even the top price, however, is much lower than that paid by MNOs for their licenses. MTN and Airtel recently paid N71.9 billion each (close to US$173 million) to renew their Universal Access Services (UAS) licences for another 10 years.
That’s not too surprising, perhaps. As the NCC points out: “The defining difference between an MVNO and an MNO is the simple fact that an MVNO has no ownership whatsoever of spectrum elements, irrespective of its operational model…An MVNO rides on top of the infrastructure capacity of a fully licensed mobile telecommunication service provider.”
The New Telegraph news service suggests that the arrival of MVNOs could lower call and data costs and cites the NCC’s hope that the MVNOs might help to drive government’s efforts to extend telecom services to more rural, under-served, and unserved communities across the country.
When all this will happen is not yet clear. Arguably, however, the publication of this detailed licence framework and the absence of spectrum auctions should mean quicker time to market for MVNOs than for MNOs.