The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is in charge of issuing telecommunication licenses in Nigeria. It is an offense to operate a communications system or facility or provide a communications service in Nigeria unless authorized to do so under a communications license or exempted under regulations made by the Commission under the Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003.1 Thus, it is imperative to obtain a license before engaging in any communications service in Nigeria.
What are the conditions for obtaining a telecommunication license in Nigeria?
- The applicant must be a corporate body registered under Nigerian laws.
- The applicant must meet the Commission's technical requirements for operating such a license.
- The applicant must possess sufficient financial capacity to provide long-term service to the satisfaction of the Commission.
- The applicant must satisfy any other condition the Commission may require; and
- In the case of a resource-dependent service, the Commission must have determined the availability of such resources such as spectrum or numbering, and that the applicant has secured a reservation or assignment of such resource.2
What are the classes of licenses available in Nigeria?
The categories of telecommunication licenses available in Nigeria are:3
- An Individual Licence: This license is for a specified person to conduct a specified activity. The terms, conditions and obligations, scope, and limitations of the license are specific to the service being provided.
- A Class Licence: This is a license for any or all persons to conduct a specified activity and may include conditions to which the conduct of that activity shall be subject. It is general as the terms and conditions are common to all license holders. It also requires only registration with the Commission for applicants to commence operation.
There is also another type of license which is the Unified Licence; an authorization that allows the licensee to provide a basket of services under a single license. For example, under a Unified License, the licensee may be allowed to provide Mobile and Fixed telephony services, National Long Distance, and Gateway services under one license, it can also be Regional or National Services.4
Also, there is the Value Added Licence which allows non-core Network telecommunication services which are beyond standard voice calls. These services include Internet, Directory service, paging service, voice mail and Prepaid Calling Card service, Call Center services, content services, and Vehicle Tracking. The service provider does not own a network to provide the service and may ride on existing networks.
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Can a foreign company apply for a telecommunications license?
Yes, a foreign company can apply for a telecommunications license. However, the foreign company must be registered in Nigeria by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) by virtue of section 78 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020.
What is the time frame for granting a license?
According to the provision of the Nigerian Communication Act 2003, an applicant must receive a response with respect to a license application within 90 days of the submission of the application provided it is not the subject of a competitive bid process.5 In practice, for individual licenses, depending on the service and completeness of required information, the conclusion of the process takes between 4-8 weeks.
For a class license, the Nigeria Communications Commission shall decide within 30 days of receipt of the application, whether a class license shall be granted or refused, and the Commission shall notify the applicant in writing of its decision.6 The Commission also reserves the right to extend the time within which it shall decide on the application for a class license for an additional period not exceeding 30 days.7 However, it is possible to receive an Offer Letter immediately after the application is completed.
What are the processes involved after application?
Where the Commission is satisfied with the application, it shall issue an Offer Letter to the applicant, stipulating terms that are applicable to the license. The applicant shall pay the relevant license fee within 30 days of receipt of the Offer Letter.8
The Commission may revalidate an Offer Letter that has expired upon a written request by the applicant stating reasons why it failed to pay the license fee within the stipulated timeframe. An Offer Letter may be revalidated only once and upon expiration of the period, the offer will lapse and the applicant shall be required to make a new application if he/she is still interested in obtaining a license.9
Restrictions on Issuing Individual Licences
The Commission shall not issue an Individual license to any applicant who has;
- a controlling interest in another licensee, where the Commission is satisfied that anti-competitive issues may likely arise in the event that such license is granted or
- failed to meet its obligations under the conditions of another license granted to it.10
- is operating under an existing class license in respect of the same service or activity.11
Can a Licence be Assigned?
The grant of a license shall be personal to the licensee and the license shall not be operated by, assigned, sub-licensed or transferred to any other party unless the prior written approval of the Commission has been granted.12
How Do You Apply for an Individual Licence?
- Obtain the application form
- Fill out the form and produce two copies of the form
- Also, attach copies of relevant documents. This includes;
a) Certificate of Incorporation
- Tax Clearance Certificate
- Certified True Copy (CTC) of Articles & Memorandum of Association of the company
- Feasibility report of proposed service
- 3 Passport photographs of an authorized representative
- Certificates of qualified technical staff (where applicable)
- Certified True Copy (CTC) of Form for List of Company Directors
- Passport photographs of the Directors of the company
- Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Company's Registered Address
- Utility bill of the official address of the Company.
- Evidence of funding for the project
- The amount budgeted for the project i.e. estimated funding for the deployment of the proposed service
- Applications should be submitted in triplicate with all necessary documents attached, all spiral bound.
- On submission of the form, a non-refundable administrative charge, which is 5% of the relevant license fee would be paid.
- The license fee is payable on approval of the application.
What are the Requirements for Obtaining a Class Licence?
- Obtain an application form
- Fill out the form and produce one extra copy
- Attach copies of relevant documents;
- Certificate of Incorporation or Registered Business Name,
- Tax Clearance Certificate.
- A certified true copy of Articles & Memorandum of Association.
- A certified true copy of the form of a list of Company Directors
- 2 Passport photographs of authorized representative.
- Certificate of qualified technical staff
- Brief on the proposed service
- Passport photographs of Directors of the Company/Sole Proprietorship
- Application should be submitted in duplicates with all necessary documents attached, all spiral bound.
- A license fee of Ten Thousand Naira (?10,000.00) only, is payable upon submission of the application.
To provide any telecommunication service in Nigeria, it is important to obtain a license from the Nigerian Communications Communication. As stated in the article, the license to be provided depends on the services to be offered amongst other factors. Providing any telecommunication service without a valid license is an offense for which the person shall be liable to an administrative fine of N5,000,000 for the contravention and N500,000 for each day that the contravention persists after an order to desist has been issued by the Commission.13
The legal procedure for obtaining a telecommunications license in Nigeria is a critical aspect of fostering a vibrant and competitive telecommunications sector. As Nigeria continues to advance its digital economy and expand connectivity to its population, the transparent and well-defined process of obtaining a telecommunications license ensures that operators comply with legal and regulatory requirements while fostering innovation, investment, and the delivery of high-quality telecommunication services to Nigerian consumers.
1. Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003; Section 31. See also Licensing Regulations 2019; Regulations 5
2. ibid; Regulations 10.
3. Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003; Section 32.
4. Nigerian Communications Commission Website
5. Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003; Section 41.
6. Licensing Regulations 2019; Regulations 26(2).
7. ibid; Regulations 26 (4)
8. Licensing Regulations 2019; Regulations 17(2) & (3).
9. ibid; Regulations 17(4) & (5).
10. ibid; Regulations 18.
11. Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003; Section 39(3)
12. Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003; Section 34.
13. Licencing Regulations 2019; Regulations 13(1)
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.