No Approval for Visafone Spectrum Licence Transfer to MTN, NCC Insists

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Emma Okonji
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday clarified the issue of the purported transfer of Visafone spectrum licence to MTN Nigeria at the point of purchase of Visafone shares by MTN in December last year.

News have been making the rounds that MTN also acquired Visafone’s 800MHz spectrum licence at the point when it acquired 100 per cent shares of Visafone last year.

Visafone was the only Nigerian telecoms operator that was operating the 800MHz spectrum, which it won in 2007.
But NCC, yesterday clarified the issue, insisting that the commission did not approve spectrum licence acquisition of Visafone by MTN.

NCC, in a statement signed by its Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said the commission only granted approval for Visafone share transfer to MTN, and not licence.

According to the statement, a decision to transfer Visafone licence to MTN has not yet been taken, adding that what was approved in the transaction was 100 per cent shareholding not licence.

NCC’s final approval to the changes in shareholding of Visafone Communications was taken by virtue of section 38 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003. Section 38 of the Act states: “The grant of a licence shall be personal to the licencee and the licence shall not be operated by, assigned, sub-licenced or transferred to any other party unless the prior written approval of the commission has been granted, the statement further said.

According to Ojobo, “This is contrary to the speculation in a section of the media that the NCC the regulatory agency for telecommunication had foreclosed the release of the spectrum held by Visafone to MTN. This clarification has become necessary in order to allay the fears in some quarters that the frequency had been withheld by the commission.

“The commission is yet to meet to take a decision on the application by Visafone to transfer its licence to MTN. The NCC has only approved the shareholding structure by 100 per cent and not transfer of licence.”
Specifically, Visafone Communications Limited with a Universal Access Service Licence (UASL), deploying Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology applied to the NCC for an approval to effect a change in its shareholding structure by transferring 100 per cent of its shares to MTN Nigeria.

Having met all the preliminary requirements for grant of approval for change in shareholding structure, the NCC in line with its established procedure granted an Approval-In-Principle to Visafone Communications Limited, subject to fulfillment of conditions to transfer 100 per cent of its shares to MTN Nigeria.

Having fulfilled the conditions stipulated in the “Approval-In-Principle”, the NCC, in line with its procedure granted a “Final-Approval” to Visafone for the change in its shareholding structure.

Thereafter, Visafone applied for approval to transfer its licence to MTN. The NCC has written to Visafone, clearly stating that a decision was yet to be taken on the transfer of Visafone licence to MTN, the statement said.