By CHIMA AKWAJA, Lagos
Ntel, Nigeria’s fastest growing mobile operator running on fourth generation voice over long term evolution (4G VoLTE) technology, has said it has the potential to surpass the $1billion capital expenditure projection it made about a year ago when it was launched in Nigeria.
Chief executive officer of the telecommunications firm, Mr. Kamar Abass, who disclosed this also predicted that Nigeria’s telecommunications industry would grow to 200 million mobile customers by 2022.
He explained that Ntel was in its third round of financing, which entailed expanding its network both in terms of coverage and capacity in the linkages between the cities.
In an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP at the weekend, Abass said, “We have done two existing rounds. The first round of fund raising was to acquire the company’s assets that we acquired and I think that is well known. That was $252 million that has been paid and settled. There was a second round of finance which was about buying the equipment and the systems and facilities which we have now rolled out.
“Now, there is a third round of financing, which is about expanding our network both in terms of coverage and capacity in the linkages between the cities and that third round we are on now and all of those are building up to that $1 billion figure.
“We may not be there yet but we are on the road to that $1 billion and certainly we anticipate that we will complete that $1billion and potentially we will go further”.
The Ntel boss observed that there is a huge demand for mobile data on telecom networks where most subscribers are using smartphones and data bundles for applications such as WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, etc for data communication, heavy video streaming, uploads downloads, blogging and website as well as daily business management.
He said he was expecting a significant growth by over 50 per cent 4G customers. Abass continued: “By that date we expect majority of those 200 million customers to be data customers, over 100 million data customers and what we see is that most of those data customers will be 4G users.
“We see bigger overall market growth; a majority of customers in the market will be broadband customers and within that ntel expects to play a very big. We expect to see 5G in Nigeria within that time frame too”.
The telecom guru informed LEADERSHIP that in the last one year, thousands of 4G base transceiver stations (BTS) sites have added to the telecom network, whereas when Ntel started out, it was just a small number below 1,000 4G sites existed in Nigeria.
His words: “Between the time of our launch and today something around 6,000 to 7,000 sites has been added and we see that trend continuing. I suspect that over the next year the number of 4G sites will grow by 50 per cent if not more.
“We will see a big shift in terms of 4G customers because people will come to recognize 4G as the standard for mobile data. I hope we see better approach to pricing so that we can all be in an environment where we are all more sustained.
“I expect the regulatory agenda to open up in the efficiency of active infrastructure sharing on the landscape and I hope to see more investment come in, not only to people like us, but to the whole industry”.
Abass said currently the voice market which led the telecom revolution peaked two years ago and is in decline, noting however that Ntel has no desire to join in that decline,
He addef: “When I talk about the millions of minutes we are doing, we are doing it over the Internet protocol (IP) and that gives us efficiency that is not available to those who are using switching to deliver voice as it started 15 years ago”, he added:
Abass whose holding company, Natcoms Development and Investment Company Limited, acquired the assets of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) said they have funded, repaired, managed one of the most strategic infrastructure in the telecom space, SAT3 subsea cable, to help ntel’s 4G VoLTE network absorb traffic and deliver mega bandwidths to Nigeria’s public sector, private enterprises and other information as well as communications technology entities.
He said, “We now have access to a significant amount of international capacity between Lagos and all points of West, North, South and East from Nigeria through Spain to Africa, America, and Europe and to Malaysia and the rest of Asia. So it is a very significant capability that we have access to along the other members of the SAT 3 concession.
“We have a fully refurbished landing station in Lagos and adjacent to that landing station is our data centre which means we have access to extremely efficient cable and to the internet points in London where we get our internet service from.
“It also allows us to connect to Abuja and Port Harcourt and we can give Enterprise customers and other operators’ service. We have also increased the investment on SAT 3. So, we have got some additional capacity that is coming on stream in September this year and that gives many more capacity than we can use but it gives us the capacity to service our data customers and enterprise customers”.
Speaking on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) growth through the provision of high speed internet service, he said, “The big thing for SMEs is cost efficiency and productivity and we have got unlimited packages which support that in a very good way.
“We see significant usage on our network during the week and less usage during the weekends and that shows that we are talking about SMEs community. A lot of our packages have been acquired by SMEs and we are very pleased and proud that we can be supportive to this very vital engine of economic growth in our economy”.