Investment | Nigerian Ntel Pursues US$1 Billion Investment for Mobile-Broadband Growth

LAGOS, Nigeria, Capital Markets in Africa — Nigerian Internet provider Ntel is looking more than US$1 billion to invest in 4G mobile broadband by 2020, to take advantage of a rising number of smartphone users in the country.

“We are speaking to investors and to banks who are interested in a growth story for Africa,” Chief Executive Officer Kamar Abass, 51, said in an interview on March 31. “We are seeing the very beginnings of a shift from a voice-oriented communications market in Nigeria to one that will be dominated by mobile broadband.”

Nigeria had about 149 million active mobile-phone lines as of end January, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, yet most users are restricted to 2G voice and text messaging due to the low penetration of smartphones. Nigeria’s population is forecast by the World Bank to reach almost 207 million by 2020 from about 170 million now, and Ntel expects Nigeria’s mobile-broadband customer numbers to rise significantly by 2020, Abass said.

Ntel’s investment target includes the $252 million that the company paid to acquire state-owned landline provider Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. and its mobile unit MTel in 2015. It is owned by Nigerian investors including Olatunde Ayeni, the chairman of Skye Bank Plc, and has a partnership agreement with closely held Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd., according to the company.

Ntel will compete with Nigeria’s four mobile-phone companies, MTN, Etisalat,Bharti Airtel Ltd. of India and local provider Globacom Ltd. The company will start services in in Lagos and Abuja, the capital, on April 8.

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