NITEL Facilities Added No Value to ntel's 4G Rollout, Says Abass

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Emma Okonji

One year after the commercial rollout of ntel, following the acquisition of NITEL/Mtel by NATCOM in 2015, which currently trades as ntel, the Chief Executive Officer of ntel, Mr. Kamar Abass has said that the acquisition of NITEL/Mtel facilities did not add any value to ntel’s network deployment in the last one year, because the facilities were obsolete and irrelevant to its Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) Advanced network deployment.

Abass, who made the disclosure during an interview session with journalists in Lagos recently, said ntel had to begin full investment in its 4G LTE Advanced infrastructure, from the scratch, without using the acquired NITEL/Mtel facilities.
Contrary to public perception that the acquisition of NITEL/Mtel will give ntel a comparative advantage over existing telecoms operators because NITEL/Mtel had telecoms facilities installed across all states and local government areas of the country, Abass said those installed facilities were not complaint with 4G LTE rollout and did not add value to ntel’s operation in the last one year of its rollout.

“It is true that we acquired the assets of NITEL/Mtel, in 2015, before our commercial rollout in 2016, but those assets did necessarily give us any advantage for faster deployment of our 4G LTE Advanced service offerings. We had to build our own infrastructure in line with 4G LTE standard that we operate on, and that means starting investing in a completely new 4G LTE Advanced infrastructure network from the scratch. This is because, at the time NITEL was active in the telecoms sector, there was nothing like 3G and 4G LTE technologies,” Abass explained.

According to him, before the acquisition, NITEL had about 450,000 customers, but at the point of acquisition in 2015, all of those customers were gone and ntel did not acquire a single customer from NITEL/Mtel.

Mtel, which operated the mobile arm of NITEL, had between 750 and 800 sites and at that time, the operator was at its peak of mobile service offerings. But by 2008, both NITEL and Mtel became dormant for seven years before it was eventually acquired by ntel in 2015, after several failed acquisition processes involving international and local investors.

Abass however said that within a space of one year of its rollout, ntel was able to deploy over 800 sites in the three states where it currently operates, which of course doubled what NITEL/Mtel had for several years. The CEO assured Nigerians that by the end of the year, ntel would also cover the total amount of subscribers NITEL/Mtel had for several years. NITEL at a time, had several base stations across the country, but we could not use any of the base stations because they were not complaint with our 4G LTE rollout, Abass added.
Listing its present locations of network coverage to include Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, Abass said the coverage in each state is about 70 per cent penetration with a plan to achieve 99 per cent coverage before it move on to other states.

What customers demand today is full network coverage where they live, work, worship and hangout, and it is our duty to provide them that coverage. Technically speaking, we have more coverage areas within one year of operation than what NITEL/Mtel had in several years of its operation, Abass added.

The planned process of acquisition of NITEL/Mtel had been on-going for serval years, resulting in cancellation of near success bidding processes from several investors.

But in May 2015, after the unbundling of NITEL, NATCOM, which trades as ntel, eventually acquired NITEL/Mtel.
NATCOM acquired assets and licences of NITEL and Mtel, percentage interests held in South-Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) consortium, and other assets for $252.251 million.

Between May 2015 and April 2016, ntel prepared its business for market launch and in April 2016, it had its first commercial rollout.
One year after its commercial rollout, Abass said the telecoms company was able to set its priorities right by establishing a billing system that gives better integration of its customers.

“It has given us significant ease of operating in a unique way that is different from other operators, and we have made tremendous progress in one year, based on the number of customers that are now on our network. We got award from an American company as the fastest internet service provider, and I see this as a great feat in one year of rollout. But this did not even come as a surprise to us because we know we are the clear leader in the industry, offering 4G LTE Advanced services to customers in a unique way, Abass stressed.