MTN Says Modernizing Nigeria Network With $1.3 Billion

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone operator, said it started upgrading its Nigerian phone network to expand capacity and improve the quality of its services.

“The network modernization and swap-out project is part of the $1.3 billion investment we have earmarked for 2012,” the company said today in an e-mailed statement from Lagos, the commercial capital. The project, which will be handled by Ericsson AB, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. of China, will be carried out at night to reduce the effect on the quality of the carrier’s service, it said in the statement.

MTN Nigeria is the biggest phone company in the country, Africa’s most populous nation with more than 160 million people. The unit of MTN, based in Johannesburg, has 40 million customers on its Nigerian network, or a 48 percent share of the country’s 84 million mobile-phone subscribers, according to the Nigeria Communications Commission, the industry regulator.

MTN Nigeria was fined 360 million naira ($2.2 million) by the telecommunications regulator on May 11 for failing to meet a minimum service standard.

The phone company said on April 25 it is suffering from growing damage to its fiber-optic network in the country, with more than 70 cuts to the lines a month nationwide. Poor road construction practices account for 42 percent of the incidents, while 25 percent comes from damage by criminals and 33 percent from other incidents including sabotage, according to MTN Nigeria.

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