MTN sued by Etisalat over Visafone acquisition

It seems MTN Nigeria will be having an extended stay in court in 2016, as the telecommunication service provider has being sued by Etisalat over the company’s recent acquisition of Visafone communications. Visafone, a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator, was acquired by MTN about a month ago (12/1/2016), for an undisclosed fee, a move made to bolster the company’s internet service here in Nigeria.

The acquisition was obviously a good news to MTN network subscribers, considering its implications on internet speed and the cost of accessing internet in Nigeria. However, Etisalat Nigeria does not find this news appealing, as the company cited that the acquisition will further make MTN a dominant player in a market where they already have an edge over their competitors owing to undue favouritism. Etisalat further stated that the option of acquiring Visafone was not made available to other network operators in the country.

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Etisalat’s Public Relations Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Division Officer, Chinesie Amanfo told The Guardian that

 “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.

“You will recall that MTN Nigeria was declared dominant by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2013 and remains dominant in the wholesale leased line and retail voice markets.
“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.”

MTN confirmed the lawsuit through a senior official of the company, however declined to say more, “I can’t say more than that for now,” the official said.

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MTN Nigeria reportedly hired former US attorney Eric Holder to represent the company in the MTN Vs NCC, although the news is still unconfirmed, it is safe to say that the hire was timely as the telecommunication giant will be spending quite sometime in the court this year.

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