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Nigeria Plans Fixed Phone Licenses in 2013 to Spur Broadband

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, plans to give additional fixed-line telephone licenses next year to spur the expansion of broadband Internet infrastructure, the telecommunications regulator said.

“The licenses will be issued to revive the fixed-line telecommunication services that have been comatose and will benefit our broadband initiative,” Eugene Juwah, chief executive officer of Nigerian Communications Commission, said yesterday in an interview in Lagos, the commercial capital. The agency wants to provide the “enabling environment” for private investors to expand the country’s broadband infrastructure, he said.

Nigeria, with more than 164 million people, has seen its number of telephone users surge from less than 1 million in 2000 to more than 90 million at the end of last year, according to data published by the agency. Fixed-line telephone users make up less than 1 percent of the total number, leaving room for growth in broadband communication as demand increases for data services.

MTN Nigeria Ltd. (MTN) is the leading mobile phone company in Nigeria with more than 40 million subscribers, followed by Globacom Ltd. with about 20 million and Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s (BHARTI) unit with more than 16 million. Providers of the global system of mobile communication, or GSM, services account for 93 percent of all subscribers, according to the website of the regulator.

The commission, also known as NCC, will license additional phone companies using the code division multiple access, or CDMA, technology, whose users are just over 6 percent of the national total, to further boost communication, said Juwah.

NCC said it will “enhance competition among telecom operators, ensure high quality services, drive down tariffs and by those factors make more choices available to subscribers,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emele Onu in Lagos at eonu1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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