Monday, May 25, 2009

‘Mobitel met all criteria for 2.3GHz’

Management of the resuscitated Mobitel Nigeria Limited, has described as spurious, some media report alleging that the telecom company was not capable of acquiring the latest 2.3 Gega Hertz (GHz) license, saying that it met all the necessary criteria under the Communications Act as being implemented by the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

ITRealms Online recalls that some news report had it that a waiver was granted to Mobitel allegedly amounting to about 90 per cent of the telco’s debt, yet it was able to pay over N1.3billion within five days for the 2.3GHz license.

Responding to the reports among others in a chat with ITRealms Online, last weekend, a senior management staff of the new Mobitel, who does not want the names in print, denied the reports, maintaining that NCC would not revalidate the operating license of Mobitel if it has not done its own checks and made sure that everything is correctly sorted out.

Mobitel, our source, said, has a letter of revalidation of its license from NCC signed by Director of Legal, Mr. Steve Adzenge, outlining all the outstanding and clearances obtained thereof in order for the commission to endorse the return of Mobitel.

Our sources explained that the supposed amount of money owe NCC by Mobitel before now were accumulated annual operating fees, of which the company was not operating since the murder of its founder, Chief Alaba Joseph, in 2005, in other words, company cannot be paying debt while not in operation.

“There is an annual operating levy of 2.1 per cent, which the old Mobitel has not paid (while in comatose), which amounted to about N746 million and we paid N500m and pleaded with NCC to understand that for about five years Mobitel was not operating and we engaged NCC. As for other operators we have negotiated settlement.

ITRealms Online were told that there was no waiver per se, but very necessary steps were taken by the regulator towards the resuscitation of the company through a concession

Omni Ventures, our sources said, on acquisition of Mobitel in 2008 paid estimated $30 million after settling all outstanding and renegotiating terms with indebted operators, most of which were actually written off, citing an instance of MTN Nigeria Communications, which encouraged Mobitel’s return by cancelling its outstanding debt.

According to our sources, the NCC should not have revalidated Mobitel license if it had not met all the necessary measures to reposition itself in the market or met the payment guidelines in the latest licensing granted in 2.3G by the regulator, of which it was one of the first to pay the stipulated fixed price through electronic money transfer.

Recalling what happened to CIL owned by Globacom Limited during the Digital Mobile Licensing (DML) offer, culminating in late payment, our source said, they took precaution, therefore on conclusion of the meeting between all the 40 bidders and NCC, Mobitel team within the next available working hours paid the required licensing fee by electronic transfer, which took about 20 minutes to hit the account number.

“Mobitel raised its fund via SkyeBank, which is leading other consortium of financiers and we paid N1,368,000 million, some days before the cut-off date,” our source declared, stressing that Mobitel has come to stay with one desire, “to play actively in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.”

The seeking of 2.3GHz, ITRealms Online gathered, was to enable the returnee Mobitel to play in the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) platform to re-launch itself into the nation’s ICT market.

Mobitel is a pioneering provider of telecommunications services in the country. Wholly acquired by a consortium led by Omni Ventures in 2008, Mobitel offers fixed and wireless voice, data and value-added services focusing on small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and high-end consumers across Nigeria.

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