According to a report by Nigerian newspaper The Punch, Etisalat Nigeria has acquired a licence to provide third-generation wireless services through the purchase of startup Alheri Mobile Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of local conglomerate Dangote Group. Alheri was awarded a 3G concession from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in April 2007, alongside established operators Airtel Nigeria (then known as Celtel), Globacom and South Africa’s MTN Nigeria. However, in August 2008 the NCC said it was launching a probe into Alheri’s lack of 3G rollout plan, and in September 2009 local press reported that the company was looking to sell the licence as it could not afford to keep it, although at the time such reports were denied by Dangote Group.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday, Etisalat Nigeria’s CEO, Steven Evans, said: ‘We are delighted to acquire the 3G licence, which is an essential element of our plans for further developing the market for mobile broadband in Nigeria. We have placed a strong emphasis on offering data services to all our customers. Now, with 3G, we can further develop our data and mobile broadband portfolio and offer our customers even higher levels of service. There is pent-up demand in Nigeria for broadband and we intend to be leaders in satisfying it.’ Evans added that the GSM operator plans to invest USD400 million next year, USD50 million of which will be spent on 3G equipment, which will initially be rolled out in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, with plans to expand coverage to other areas later in 2011. Meanwhile, Boye Olusanya, managing director of Alheri Mobile, commented: ‘It makes sense for us to sell Alheri Mobile to Etisalat Nigeria as we believe that the market here can only sustain four mobile operators in the medium to long-term. We intend to use the capital raised to develop our other assets in the telecoms market and we look forward to deepening our relationship with Etisalat.’