MTN Group Limited has alleged that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has lifted a suspension on services to the mobile phone company, an indication that relations between the two sides are thawing as they negotiate the payment of a record $3.9 billion fine.

NCC “has lifted the suspension on regulatory services to MTN Nigeria,” the Johannesburg-based company said in a statement yesterday.

The move, according to Bloomberg, allows Africa’s biggest wireless operator to seek approvals for promotions and other plans to grow in the company’s biggest market, MTN said.

The NCC suspended services to MTN in October for a failure to meet phone-service quality standards.

That same month, the regulator imposed a $5.2 billion fine, later reduced to $3.9 billion, for missing a deadline to disconnect subscribers who weren’t properly registered in the country.

The lifting of the regulatory sanction may signal progress on the standoff between MTN and the government, according to a lawyer following the case.
“This is essentially another move in the tit-for-tat negotiation process,” Dominic Cull, a regulatory lawyer at Cape Town-based Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, said.

“Lifting the regulatory hurdle is a positive step, and means a resolution to the fine might be around the corner,” he added.
MTN has offered to pay about $1.5 billion, made up of cash, bond purchases and access to its network.

The shares declined 4.1 per cent to 139.06 rand at the close in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 257 billion rand ($16 billion).