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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 17:41 GMT
Nigeria to boost telecoms competition
Many new operators have entered the Nigerian market
Many new operators have entered the Nigerian market
Nigeria's communications minister Dr Bello Muhammed has outlined plans for a second national telephone company aimed at boosting competition in the country's fast-growing telecoms sector.

"We will embark on the licensing of our second national carrier, that will perform the same function as Nitel, including the GSM operation, just to make sure there is competition, not only in the service provision, but also in the network provision so the private operators will have the choice of which national carrier they can attach themselves to," he told the BBC's World Business Report.

"That will create a level playing field and competition. As for giving you an indication of time, scope, I think it all depends on our other responsibilities," he said.

His comments came in an interview at the end of a record year of activity in the telecoms sector in Nigeria.

Booming demand

Nigeria's first digital mobile phone operators - Zimbabwe's Econet and South Africa's MTN, who entered the market last year - have said demand for mobile communications is very strong in the West African country.

The privatisation of Nitel has yet to be completed, with its new owners expected to pay over $1.3bn for their 51% stake within a few weeks.

Demand exists in Nigeria for at least another three million telephone lines, Dr Muhammed said.

Nitel currently operates just half a million lines for a population of over 120 million people.

"One of the conditions we expect the new owner of Nitel to comply with is that by the end of the first 12 months, they will have at least 1.5m land lines and two million mobile lines, and we feel this is a target which could be achieved with dedication and commitment," he added, stressing that this kind of increase was technically possible.

"Given the number of people waiting for Nitel lines even if we are able to roll out three million lines, there will be customers for them....we believe over three million lines that could be consumed in the next twelve months in this country," he added.

Nigeria's communications minister Dr Bello Muhammed
"We will embark on the licensing of our second national carrier"
See also:

30 Nov 01 | Business
Nitel price tag raises doubts
15 Oct 01 | Business
Nitel launches GSM amid storm
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Nigeria
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