Telecoms And Media 2024

Streamsowers & Kohn


Streamsowers & Köhn is a leading commercial law firm providing legal advisory and advocacy services from its offices in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. The team has extensive experience in acting for Nigerian and international companies, government and industry regulators in the firm’s various areas of practice.
Nigeria's communications sector is primarily regulated by the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA) and the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1966 (WTA).
Nigeria Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
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Regulatory and institutional structure
Summarise the regulatory framework for the communications sector? Bo any foreign oknership restrictions apply to communications services?

Nigeria's communications sector is primarily regulated by the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA) and the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1966 (WTA). The NCA established the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which is charged with the responsibility of regulating the communications sector. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy (the Minister) under the NCA is vested with the responsibilities of the formulation, determination and monitoring of the general policy for the communications sector in Nigeria with a view to ensuring, among other things, the utilisation of the sector as a platform for the economic and social development of Nigeria, the negotiation and execution of international communications treaties and agreements, on behalf of Nigeria, between sovereign countries and international organisations and bodies, and the representation of Nigeria, in conjunction with the NCC, at proceedings of international organisations and on matters relating to communications. Under the NCA, the NCC is authorised to make and publish regulations and guidelines insofar as it is necessary to give effect to the full provisions of the NCA among other reasons.

The WTA sets out the framework for regulating the use of wireless telegraphy in Nigeria.

Foreign ownership restriction does not apply to the provision of communications services in Nigeria as a company with foreign ownership, as long as it is incorporated in Nigeria, is eligible to apply for a licence to provide communications services. Under the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act, a foreign national can own up to 100 per cent of a business or can invest in any business except those on the negative list. None of the communications services authorised in Nigeria is on the negative list.

Law stated - 24 May 2024

Authorisation/licensing regime
Describe the authorisation or licensing regime?

Under the NCA, there are two broad licensing frameworks.

  • An individual licence, which is a type of authorisation in which the terms, conditions and obligations, scope and limitations are speciSc to the service being provided. The NCC may issue an individual licence by auction through a first come, first served beauty contest or through standard administrative procedure. Presently, there are 26 licence types in the individual licence category. qome of the activities authorised by an individual licence are internet services, fixed wireless access, unified access services, electronic directory services, internet exchange, international gateway, international cable infrastructure and landing station services, collocation services and commercial basic radio communications network services.
  • A class licence, which is a type of general authorisation in which the terms and conditions or obligations are common to all licence holders. It reHuires only registration with the NCC for applicants to commence operation. qome of the services subject to a class licence are sales and installation of terminal equipment (including mobile cellular phones and VF, éVF, UVF radio, etc), repairs and maintenance of telecoms facilities, cabling services, telecentres, cybercaf5s and the operation of public payphones.

In terms of issuing a licence by an administrative procedure, an entity intending to carry out a service subject to an individual licence shall apply to the NCC in the prescribed form upon the payment of the processing or administrative fee (usually 5 per cent of the licence fee) and the licence fee, while a person intending to operate under a class licence is to submit a registration notice in the prescribed form and a registration fee of 10,000 naira to the NCC. In accordance with the NCA, a licence applicant must receive a response to the application within 90 days of submitting it. Vowever, an offer letter is normally issued to applicants for a class licence if the application is complete. For individual licences, depending on the service and completeness of the reHuired information, the conclusion of the process can take between four and 12 weeks. The duration of a licence depends on the type of service authorised or spectrum licensed.

The national carrier licence and international gateway licence are valid for 20 years. The unified access service licence is valid for a term of 15 years, while a digital mobile licence (DML) authorising the use of a speciSed mobile spectrum is valid for a term of 15 years. On the other hand, an internet service, paging, prepaid calling card and special numbering services licence are all valid for a term of five years. The licence fees payable depend on the type of service. Fees payable are fixed by the NCC and published on its website. In addition to licence fees, a prospective licensee is reHuired to pay an administrative charge and, upon grant of the licence, a licensee shall pay an annual operating levy calculated on the basis of net revenue for network operators and gross revenue for non-network operators.

Fixed, mobile and satellite services are regulated and licensed under the NCA and to operate any of these services a licence must be obtained from the NCC. As these services are operator-speciSc, they fall under the individual licence category. In Nigeria, mobile telecommunications services are differentiated on the basis of whether the operator is authorised by a DML, fixed wireless access licence (FWAL) or unified access service licence. A DML authorises an operator to use appropriate equipment in a designated part of the electromagnetic spectrum and permits it to operate a network for the provision of public telecommunications services. In 2001, the NCC licensed four spectrum packages in the 900Mhz and 1,700Mhz bands to Mobile Telecommunications Limited (now Ntel), Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited (now Airtel) and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited for use in the provision of digital mobile services. These were later joined by Etisalat and Globacom. An FWAL authorises an operator to use appropriate equipment in a designated part of the electromagnetic spectrum for a term of five years (with renewal for a further five years) and permits it to operate a network for the provision of public telecommunications service. FWALs are granted on a regional basis to re:ect the 36 Nigerian states and the federal capital territory, with operators wishing to achieve national coverage reHuired to obtain licences in each of the licensing regions. In 2002, the NCC, in authorising FWAL services, also offered 42Mhz paired in the 3.5GHz band, and a total of 28Mhz paired in the 3.5GHz band across the 3; licensing regions of Nigeria to 22 new licensees.

In 2007 the NCC introduced the unified access service licence (UASL) scheme and allocated 40MHz of paired spectrum in the 2GHz band in four equal blocks of 10MHz paired spectrum.

On the successful allocation of spectrum, the allottees were issued with a spectrum licence and where necessary, a UASL. The UASL authorises the holder to provide both fixed and mobile services including voice and data, and imposes special conditions requiring its holders to build and operate a telecommunications network to provide voice telephony, video services, multimedia services, web browsing, real-time video streaming, video surveillance, network gaming, email, SMS, file transfer, broadband data and location-based services, and other services that may be authorised, and that the 3G network be built and operated according to certain defined technical standards.

For broadband internet services, a wholesale wireless access service licence (WWASL) authorises the holder to construct, maintain, operate and use a network consisting of a mobile communication system, a Fixed wireless access telecommunications system, or a combination of any of these systems comprising radio or satellite or their combination, within Nigeria, deployed for providing point-to-point or switched or unswitched point-to-multipoint communications for the conveyance of voice, data, video or any kind of message. The WWAqL also authorises the holder to construct, own, operate and maintain an international gateway, while an infrastructure company licence authorises the holder to provide and operate on a wholesale basis an open-access metropolitan fiber network within a designated geographical area in Nigeria, in particular, among other things, to construct, maintain and operate fiber optic network facilities.

Commercial satellite services in Nigeria are regulated under the Commercial qatellite Communications Guidelines 2017 issued by the NCC. Under these Guidelines, there are two broad categories of commercial satellite service authorised:

  • space segment operators (SSOs); and
  • earth station operators (ESOs).

An SSO is authorised by a landing permit to beam its signal from a named geostationary satellite over the territory of Nigeria. The landing permit does not authorise the SSO to provide any other type of communications services directly to the last-mile user other than wholesale communications services to other communications operators licensed to provide services to last-mile users. The ESOs, on the other hand, are authorised under the applicable operational licence issued by the NCC to provide services to last-mile users in Nigeria.

Public Wi-Fi services are authorised pursuant to the Public Wi-Fi services are authorised pursuant to the Regulatory Guidelines for the Use of 2.GHz ISM Band for Commercial Telecoms

Services. Under these Guidelines, Wi-Fi hotspots shall, inter alia, be deployed in the 2GHz industrial, medical and scientiSc band and must be registered and authorised by the NCC. In addition, commercial Wi-Fi hotspot operators must hold a licence for the provision of internet services.

In 2022, NCC, in a bid to deepen the penetration of communications services in Nigeria, issued the License Framework For the Establishment of Mobile virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) in Nigeria. The MVNO licence is a five-tier classification that has distinctive services to be offered by the players in different tiers and may be implemented in any of the following ways:

  • tier 1 virtual operators: these are operators who are able to offer services to their customers without owning any switching or intelligent network infrastructure. They also do not control any numbering resources. They rely on the host licensee to provide wholesale capacity to enable them to deliver products and services to customers;
  • tier 2 simple facilities virtual operator: these are operators who do not have core switching and interconnect capabilities but can set up their own intelligent network (IN) to provide IN services to customers;
  • tier 3 core facilities virtual operator: these are operators who rely on the host licensee to provide radio access capacity at wholesale to deliver products and services to customers. They also own and manage core network elements (switching and interconnections). Revenue generation stems from both outbound and inbound calls that give it full control over its tariff structure;
  • tier 4 virtual aggregator or enabler: these are operators who are responsible for purchasing bulk capacity from a licensed network operator, and reselling it to multiple MVNOs, therefore streamlining the process of negotiating capacity agreements with said network operators. In underserved and unserved areas, it is permissible for these operators to provide core telecommunications services to customers by entering into a 'shared rural coverage agreement' with a licensed spectrum owner; and
  • tier 5 unified virtual operator: these are operators who are eligible to provide any of the services under tiers 1-4.

Tier 1-4 entrants are expected to pay 5 per cent of the license fee as non-refundable administrative charges, while tier 5 entrants are to pay 50 million naira in non-refundable administrative fees prior to negotiations with the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). MNOs are not eligible to apply for the MVNO licence.

Law stated - 24 May 2024

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Originally published by Lexology.

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.

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