US embassy cable - 02ABUJA461


Identifier: 02ABUJA461
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA461 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-02-08 16:07:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: 01 STATE 197204 
1. Market statistics: By most accounts, Nigeria's telecom 
sector witnessed significant growth in 2001, but accurate 
statistics are difficult to obtain. Although information 
regarding telecom companies and government agencies 
participating in the sector is current, data on growth trends 
is available up to 2000 only. 
A. Size of telecom service market: Annual revenue from the 
telecom sector is estimated to be over USD 10 million. 
Analysts place the current value of telecom and 
telecom-related investments in Nigeria at roughly USD 3 
billion, not including the recent sale of NITEL, the 
state-owned telecom monopoly, which was sold to a consortium 
of international and domestic investors for USD 1.3 billion 
in November 2001 (but is yet to be paid for).  During 2001, 
over half of the USD 3 billion was derived just from the two 
General System of Mobile communications (GSM) operators: MTN 
and Econet Wireless.  Each licensee paid USD 285 million for 
their license.  MTN claims to have invested USD 350 million 
so far and plans to spend another USD 600 million during 
B. Size of telecom equipment market: Accurate estimates of 
the value of telecom equipment are unavailable.  However, 
observers estimate the current market to be around USD 1.2 
billion. Wireless equipment makes up over 60 percent of this 
level.  Several reasons exist for the tilt towards wireless: 
Nigeria's size and topography, the dearth of hardwire 
infrastructure, and favorable policies encouraging wireless 
communications. U.S. company Motorola currently supplies 
wireless equipment to a Lagos-based distributor.  Other major 
equipment providers include Ericsson, Alcatel and Siemens. 
C. Number of access lines and teledensity: According to the 
national telecom regulator, in 2000, the number of fixed 
lines was 558,393 with a teledensity of over four lines per 
1,000 inhabitants (Note: using the estimated population 
figure of 120 million).  Nigeria's suppressed demand is 
significant.  Only 30,000 analogue lines have been added 
during the last ten years. 
D. Number of mobile subscribers: With only 35,000 subscribers 
at year-end 2000, mobile phone subscriptions skyrocketed to 
over 300,000 by December 2001.  Teledensity is currently 
doubling every four months.  Backbone and switching capacity 
is insufficient to support this demand. 
E. Number of internet subscribers: Current data is not 
available, although 2000 figures estimate the number of 
internet subscribers at 10,647.  Speed and reliability are 
poor and costs are high. 
F. Current population: 120 million (estimate projected from 
1991 census) 
2. Current Operators 
A. Wireline incumbent: Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. 
(NITEL) is the only hardwire operator in Nigeria. 
a. Percentage of government ownership: NITEL is the only 
company, in which the federal government holds an interest. 
Federal government shares in the company stood at 49% at 
year-end 2001.  The remaining 51% shares were auctioned to 
Investment International (London) Ltd. (IIL) for USD 1.317 
billion.  All other operating companies are 100 percent 
privately owned. 
b. Current efforts/future plans to privatize: Controlling 
interests in NITEL, the state-owned telecom monopoly, was 
sold to an international consortium for USD 1.317 billion in 
November 2001.  Final completion of NITEL's sale is 
anticipated on February 12, 2002 when IIL's full payment is 
due.  The GON plans to eventually divest all its shares of 
NITEL.  Licensing for a second national carrier is already in 
c. Terms/scope of operations: At present, NITEL retains 
monopoly control of the international gateway (voice) and 
will do so until a second national carrier enters the market. 
 Private telephone operators (PTOs) must obtain an 
inter-connectivity agreement with NITEL prior to operating 
and an operating license from the Nigerian Communications 
Commission (NCC). 
B. Internet 
a. Number of ISPs: About 160 ISP internet service providers 
have been licensed by the NCC as of December 2001.  However, 
just 21 are currently operating.  Demand for access to ISPs 
greatly outstrips ISP capacity.  Access fees are high and 
service is frequently disrupted.  The major constraints on 
increased internet availability include severely limited and 
corrupted telephone lines and highly unreliable power supply. 
b. Availability in secondary cities: ISPs are only present in 
the major cities of Nigeria, such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port 
Harcourt, Kaduna, Ibadan and Enugu. 
c. Number and growth trends for cyber-cafes: According to 
end-2002 ISP data, approximately 1,500 cyber-cafes operate in 
Nigeria.  Neighborhood private phone cabins (business 
centers- as they are called in Nigeria) are frequently 
equipped with computers for internet access. 
d. Total national bandwidth: 2mb/s (year 2000 statistics). 
e. Number of international data providers: 
f. IP telephony: Internet Protocol telephony is used, 
although no official regulatory policy exists on Voice Over 
Internet Protocol, the privately managed IP network. 
f. Other wireline operators: NITEL remains the only operator 
at present. 
C. Wireless Operators 
a. Mobile/cellular: Three companies are currently operating 
GSM mobile telecom services: 
-- Econet Wireless Nigeria Ltd.  A joint venture between 
Econet Wireless of Zimbabwe, which holds 60 percent of the 
shares, and the Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, and Delta State 
governments, First Bank PLC, Bromley Investments, Ocean and 
Oil, and various Nigerian individuals (40 percent). 
-- MTN Nigeria Ltd. MTN South Africa holds 76.8% with the 
remaining 23.2% held by various Nigerian individuals. 
-- NITEL, the national carrier, currently operates analogue 
lines through its subsidiary M-Tel.  In January 2001, NITEL 
received a GSM license.  The newly-privatized company 
anticipates rollout will occur in the first quarter 2002. 
About a dozen fixed wireless companies including 
Intercellular Nigeria Ltd., Multilinks, Reliance Telecom, 
Cell Communications, Starcom, Mobitel, and VGC 
Telecommunications, have been established during the last 
four years. 
b. Satellite: Nigeria is a signatory to Immarsat, Intelsat, 
Rascom, Thuryaya, Eutelsat and Panasat.  Ten commercial 
enterprises such as Telnet Resourcery Ltd., Teledom, and 
Bacomm presently operate VSAT services for banks, oil 
companies, and some other multi-national firms.  VSAT is not 
currently available for individuals. 
c. Internet access service: Four companies, Panafrican 
Communications Network (PACONET), BT Nigeria Ltd., Bacomm, 
and Warsun Network, provide backbone support for another 
seventeen operating ISPs.  Apart from the cyber cafes in 
Nigeria's major cities that have direct ISP access, others 
must dial-up to their ISPs located primarily in Lagos for 
access, often necessitating high cost, long distance trunk 
d.   Other Notable Players: The telecom sector contains 
literally hundreds of small and medium-size companies 
operating at all marketing levels. 
e. Wireless technology in use: NITEL/M-Tel uses primarily 
analogue networks, although it is currently testing 1,000 
digital mobile lines in Abuja.  MTN and Econet both utilize 
GSM digital networks. 
D. Telecom Equipment Manufacturers 
a. Domestic Producers: No telecom equipment manufacturers 
currently operate in Nigeria. 
b. Types of equipment for which there is a greater need: As 
part of the NITEL purchase agreement, Investors International 
Limited (IIL) will be required to increase the number of 
fixed lines by 1.5 million and the number of wireless lines 
by 1.5 million within five years.  To accomplish this goal, 
much equipment will be needed to lay fiber-optic cable, 
provide wireline and wireless phones and erect cellular 
transmission towers. 
3. Government 
A. The Federal Ministry of Communications oversees telecom 
Minister of Communications: 
Dr. Mohammed Bello 
Federal Ministry of Communications 
Abuja, FCT 
Tel:  234 09 523-7183 
Fax:  234 09 523-7249 
B. Host government's announced/ongoing plans for developing 
the telecom/IT sector: The government is finalizing the sale 
of NITEL to Investors International Limited (IIL) consortium. 
 The sale should be complete by February 12, 2002.  The sale 
agreement mandates a significant expansion of fixed and 
wireless telephone services.  Continued liberalization of 
this sector has led to an increase in the number of private 
fixed telephone operators. 
C. Current government policies promoting/hindering the 
development of the telecom sector: Current government policy 
supports the development of the private-sector 
telecommunications market, as evidenced by the recent sale of 
the government-controlling interest in NITEL. 
4. Legal/ regulatory framework 
A. National telecom law: Decree No. 75 of 1992 established 
the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as the regulator 
of the telecom sector.  Draft telecommunications legislation 
is currently under review in the National Assembly.  The new 
law will provide for a more independent and stronger 
regulatory role. 
B. Telecom regulatory authority: The Nigerian Communications 
Commission (NCC). 
a. Name and contact information: 
Alhaji Ahmed Joda 
Chairman, Board of Directors 
Nigerian Communications Commission 
Benue Plaza, plot 72 Ahmadu Bello Way 
Central District Area 
PMB 326, Abuja, Nigeria. 
Tel:  234 09 234-0330 
Fax:  234 09 234-4593 
      234 09 234-4589 
Mr. Ernest Ndukwe 
Executive Vice Chairman/CEO 
Nigerian Communications Commission 
Tel:  234 09 234-4590 
Fax:  234 09 234-4593 
b. Is the regulator still part of the ministry: No, the NCC 
is an independent regulatory body, though the Ministry of 
Communications monitors the implementation of government 
c. Main functions of the regulator: The NCC is responsible 
for licensing, assigning and registering frequency; 
administering the national phone numbering plan; facilitating 
private sector participation and investment; promoting and 
enforcing a fair competitive environment; regulating tariffs; 
defining standards for economic regulation of dominant 
operators; and establishing mechanisms for promoting 
universal access to telecom services. 
d. General view of current regulator with respect to its 
independence: NCC is generally perceived as operating 
independently of political pressure.  However, NCC's handling 
of the early 2001 GSM licensing round generated some 
controversy.  One of the winning bidders, Communications 
Investment Limited (CIL), lost its license (and USD 20 
million deposit) when NCC strictly applied bid payment rules. 
 Some perceived the NCC action as excessively rigid, others 
as a sign of true transparency in the process, particularly 
since CIL was a Nigerian corporation. 
5. Telecom Commercial Environment 
A. Current restrictions on foreign investment and commercial 
presence: There are no restrictions on foreign investment in 
B. U.S. firms interested/active in the sector: Motorola, 
Cisco, Qualcomm, Networking Services, Digital Networks, and 
Harris Corporation. 
C. Key problems U.S. telecom firms confront in pursuing 
commercial opportunities: Lack of local presence can be a 
major hindrance for U.S. companies exploring business 
opportunities in Nigeria.  The overall lack of transparency 
in government contracting also poses an obstacle to U.S. 
D. Upcoming telecom commercial opportunities for U.S. firms: 
-- E-week, February 11-14, 2002, Lagos. 
-- Computers, Telecommunications and Office Equipment (CTO), 
May 13-18, 2002, Lagos. 
-- Nigeria Communications (NICOMM) 2002, October-November 
2002, Lagos. 
E. Interconnection rates: NITEL's call rates are currently 
USD 0.86 and USD 0.06 per minute for international and local 
calls respectively.  Mobile rates for the newly introduced 
GSM network is a flat USD 0.04 per minute. 
F. Telecom trade associations: 
Association of Telecommunications Professionals of Nigeria 
Contact: Charles Joseph, President 
Plot 213 Muri Okunola Street 
Off Ajose Adeogun Street 
Victoria Island 
Tel: 234-1-262-2453; 320-1001; 264-5152 
G. Other useful websites: 
U.S. Foreign Commercial Service 
Contact: Miguel Pardo de Zela 
U.S. Consulate General 
2 Walter Carrington Crescent 
Victoria Island, Lagos 
Tel: 234-1-261-0241, ext. 380 
Fax: 234-1-261-9856 

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