Etisalat Sues MTN Over Visafone Deal

MTN Nigeria’s acquisition of the last surviving Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator Visafone, has brought out the claws of fellow network provided Emirates Telecommunications Group Co (Etisalat) who has taken them to court.

Etisalat is apparently aggrieved about MTN’s acquisition of Visafone’s 800MHz spectrum, claiming that the South African firm which has remained a dominant player in the Nigerian market has waded further into the waters of favoritism that it has formerly enjoyed. They claim that the deal will give MTN more power to dominate the market to the detriment of other players in the industry and the bid should have been opened up for other players to participate.

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Etisalat has therefore instituted a legal action against MTN with its Public Relations Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Division Officer, Chinesie Amanfo, confirming the filing of a suit to The Guardian. Chinesie Amanfo in responding to The Guardian’s enquiry said, “the legal action is considered necessary to prevent the use of the Visafone’s 800MHz spectrum by MTN at this time, as it will entrench the dominance of MTN in the retail data services market.”


He spoke about the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) 2013 declaration of MTN Nigeria as the dominant wholesale leased line and retail voice markets. On this he further said,

“The use of the 800MHz spectrum to deploy broadband services ahead of its competitors, particularly those who, prior to MTNs purchase of Visafone, held similar spectrum bands as MTN, will further entrench MTN’s dominance in the Nigerian telecommunications sector…we have in addition and in line with Section 86 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 engaged the NCC to understand the basis of its decision to approve the acquisition. As you are aware, the matter is already in court, as such, we are restrained from commenting further on the matter.”


Tony Ojobo, who is a spokesman for the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigeria’s communications regulator that approved the Visafone deal, said the NCC had not received any official correspondence from Etisalat questioning the approval of the MTN acquisition. A senior official at MTN also commenting on the matter confirmed the action by Etisalat to The Guardian but refrained from saying more.

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MTN which is still in talks with NCC to settle a $3.9 billion fine for missing a deadline to disconnect its unregistered users had 62.5 million Nigerian subscribers as at the end of September, according to NCC’s website. Globacom (Glo) and Airtel Nigeria had about 31 million each and Etisalat came in fourth with 23 million customers. So do you think Etisalat is merely throwing tantrums or do they really have a ground to file this suit?