MTN seeks 4G partnerships, after one year of license

MTN-4GBIt has been a year since MTN got its 4G license, and the mobile telecoms provider is already in talks with other 4G players in the country for partnerships.

The telecoms market leader was the only company which won one of the two 800MHz spectrum slots at a price of $67.5million on December 2, 2015.

Four companies paid a non-refundable fee of GH¢250,000 each to participate in an auction for those spectrum pair, but the other three did not even show up so MTN became a default winner of one of the spectrums.

MTN deployed the service exactly six months after winning the license, as it promised, and has since spread 4G to all regional capitals across the country and to some key selected towns, with an initial investment of $18 million for 2016 alone.


Whereas MTN boasts of having “the widest 4G coverage in Ghana, and one of the widest in Africa in less than one year”, the company said it is already talking partnerships with all the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) license holders who also offer 4G LTE services on the 2600MHz spectrum band.

In response to a questionnaire from Adom News in commemoration of the first anniversary, MTN said “we are open to partnerships with all interested parties and we continue to engage all BWAs in the best interest of the industry.”

But some telecoms executives have recently hinted that their pursuit of partnerships with BWAs ran into a roadblock because the industry regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA) is not allowing it.

MTN however said “Where there is value in partnering, MTN will seize the opportunity subject to regulatory approval where required.”

Adom News has independently confirmed from at least the leading BWA licensee, Surfline, that indeed they met with the MTN CEO and talked about how they can leverage on each other’s strengths to expand 4G.

Surfline and the other BWAs like Blu, Broadband Home (BBH) and Goldkey got their licenses for only $6million each; but they have been struggling for the past four years to expand coverage and to meet the five-year deadline to provide services in 60 per cent of all district capitals.

The biggest among them, Surfline is pretty much in Accra and parts of Takoradi, while Blu and BBH are only in pockets of Accra and Goldkey has not even started commercial service.

The BWAs licenses allow them to offload up to 30 per cent shares to external investors. The telecoms companies, like MTN, which are largely foreign-owned and have the infrastructure and the financial muscle, have showed interest in the 30 per cent share model.


Speaking of shares, there is a regulatory requirement on MTN to also offload 35 per cent shares in its company to Ghanaians after acquiring the 4G license.

This is expected to be done either via an open public offer or a private placement on the Ghana Stock Exchange, or any other legal means within the next one month.

It has been one year and MTN said it is still going through the regulatory process with the Securities Exchange Commission and the NCA to make it happen sooner than later.

Customer Experience

But how has customer experience been like in the first six months of MTN 4G?

The MTN 4G customers Adom News spoke with, described the service as simply great, except it is a bit more expensive than the other 4G services.

One avowed user of MTN 4G LTE is KofiTV, arguably the biggest Facebook live television channel in the country.

KofiTV has used MTN 4G to cover major political and national events, covered big breaking news stories and also done very gripping live interviews across the country over the last few months.

Founder and CEO of KofiTV, Kofi Adomah told Adom News “MTN 4G is simply the best.”

According to him, he started running KofiTV with another 4G services and later tried another one, but both gave him coverage limitations and frequent service interruptions, but since he switched to MTN 4G Mifi, the live streaming has been smooth no matter the location.

He said KofiTV is even able to split the screen and show pre-recorded footage and or live feed from other cameras, and also do live Facebook calls simultaneously and yet faces no service interruptions.

“With MTN 4G I have been able to do live KofiTV from Kumasi, Sunyani, Cape Coast and other parts of the country without any interruption and I think that is really great,” he said.

Adomah also said on the other 4G networks he did not have coverage at home, but MTN 4G gives him coverage at home and he is able to work from home as well.

“I consume a lot of data on KofiTV and I noticed that MTN 4G is a little more expensive than the two others I tried earlier but I prefer it to the others because it is by far the best in terms of service quality and coverage,” he said.


Speaking of coverage and experience, MTN is assuring existing and potential customers that between 2017 and 2019 it will embark on a steady expansion of 4G across the country to ensure more people have access.

“We have plans to expand the coverage to reach more areas in Ghana to enable our customers experience higher-speed mobile internet on the same mobile phone from which they make and receive voice calls,” the company said.

It is also promising to introduce more innovative services that will support the growth of businesses and ultimately boosting national development, and also make video services, which require high-speed bandwidth available, and accessible to all.

The decision

At the time of the 800MHz spectrum auction there was an industry-wide outcry against the $67.5million minimum auction price, but MTN said its business case for the acquisition of the spectrum took into consideration some key factors that made it worth their while.

They said the company’s decision was partly driven by the fact that telecoms worldwide, is moving towards greater data speeds and 4G technology is the next step in that journey to making the lives of customers a whole lot brighter.

Meanwhile, industry experts have always cautioned that 4G devices are not easily affordable in Ghana, so such heavy investment into a 4G network is not the smartest thing to do. The BWAs’ struggle to generate revenue seems to support that assertion.

But MTN said “The revenue projections made for the 4G license provision was not for us to attain Return on Investment (ROI) within a year. It is an ongoing process and in line with our long term digital strategy.”

The company said it is also working with device manufacturers and distributors to source affordable 4G devices to make it easy for many more Ghanaians to access 4G LTE services.

“Subscribers replacing their legacy devices (handsets and others) to 4G compatible type is also very key to the expansion of 4G across country,” it added.

It is important to note that MTN is currently in partnership with handset dealers like Mobile Zone and i2 through which they are churning out relatively affordable 4G brands from Tecno and Huawei among others to boost uptake.

MTN said it so far does not see any immediately recognizable bottlenecks on the regulatory front so Ghanaians can rest assured that its 4G expansion will continue until it is available everywhere.

By Samuel Dowuona

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