Dr Musbahu Bashir, Mafab Communications Limited Chairman and Founder of the new operator promoting the Mcom 5G brand, says his entry into telecoms is a win for indigenous participation in the Nigerian telecoms industry, and he is confident of taking data nationwide.
In 2021, Mafab Communications surprised industry watchers when Dr Bashir’s little-known telecoms company emerged among contenders in the first round of Nigeria’s 5G auctions where two bouquets of 3.5GHz spectrum bands were offered to the highest bidder by the Nigerian Communications Limited for the deployment of the fifth-generation mobile technology providing high-speed broadband for consumers.
Later in the December 2021 spectrum auctions, Mafab Communications emerged winner of one of the two licences, alongside MTN Nigeria, the largest mobile phone company, while beating Airtel Nigeria, the number three player in the telecoms market, to the prized spectrum sold at $273,600,000 apiece.
Mafab Communications Limited: From telecoms underdog to Mcom 5G
MTN was later to pay an additional $15,900,000 for the assignment of a preferred lot of the two spectrum bands, a development that saw the two winners parting with a total of $563,100,000 in upfront spending on the acquisition of the two 5G licences in Nigeria.
While Mafab missed the August 2022 target set by the telecoms regulator to go live, Dr Bashir told attendees at the launch event where the company announced the rollout of its service, and the unveiling of its Mcom 5G brand, that his entry into the telecoms market is a triumph of indigenous participation in the Nigerian telecoms market.
“I want to start my address with the famous quote from the late South African President Nelson Mandela who said it always seems impossible until it is done,” the Mafab Communications Chairman tells attendees at the event.
For him, “it has been a long walk to where we are today,” and the launch of his company’s 5G service adds a new chapter in Nigeria’s “history towards a brighter, stronger future filled with hope and prospects.”
Dr Bashir says that “this launch of mobile 5G is the beginning of immense opportunities for the country, and it represents Nigeria’s capabilities and infinite possibilities. Putting things in proper perspective, what we are doing today will play a major role in advancing new solutions that will push Nigeria from not just being a consumer of technology, but will put the country on the pedestal of playing an active role in advancing and implementing new technologies and also enable the country not just to be a technology hub in Africa, but the world at large.”
Mafab Communication’s Mcom 5G brand will join others at various stages of service deployment to deliver on the promises of 5G for Nigeria’s growing telecoms consumer bases across the country’s geographically dispersed locations, with some still awaiting dial tones.
As of December 2022, Nigeria’s telecoms market has 222,571,568 active phones, representing 116.60% teledensity, which is telecoms industry’s estimates of the number of phone connections per 100 people in an area, that also serves to compare the level of access to voice and data communications services between metropolitan and rural areas.
Among the over 222.2 million active phones, the four leading GSM networks accounted for 222,225,300, and split among MTN Nigeria, 89,016,678; Globacom, 60,290,012; Airtel Nigeria, 60,065,904 and 9mobile, 12,852,706.
Mafab’s Mcom and the emerging race for faster broadband in Nigeria
With Mcom 5G’s market debut, the entrant player will be squaring out not only with MTN Nigeria, but another formidable rival, Airtel Nigeria, which has since acquired a 5G licence in the second round of spectrum sale that saw the nation’s number three telecoms company emerging the sole bidder walking away with the 3.5GHz spectrum at the floor price of $273,600,000.
Last year’s Airtel Nigeria’s 5G licensing was to raise Nigeria’s earnings from the sale of three spectrum lots to a whopping $590,460,000.
Nigeria’s connected millions, within the same period, have seen the country having 154,847,901 internet connections, but a broadband subscription base of 90,398,960 reaching 47.36% of the country, which underscores the gap for faster internet connections across Nigeria.
While Mcom is up against formidable rivals in the Nigerian 5G race, Dr Bashir says his company’s entry with the latest fifth-generation mobile network technology, which is scaling previous 3G and 4G technologies, will offer an edge to his new entrant brand.
“You may have heard it before,” the Mafab Chairman says, “but it bears a retelling that the 5G network will usher into the country a wide array of business opportunities while in various businesses outfits, it will expand their frontiers with operational ease and speed, especially in the field of education, medical sciences, engineering, security, financial services, SMEs, smart cities, transportation, entertainment, among others. It will not only benefit urban areas but also meet a long-term goal of ensuring connectivity in the rural areas and villages to enable them also enjoy the benefit of this amazing technology.”
Mafab Chairman: 5G brigthens future of Nigeria
For Nigeria, Dr Bashir sees huge benefits of this “amazing technology” spreading across several sectors of the economy and her position in the world.
“It is no secret that the countries that are able to provide their citizens with the latest network infrastructure with the 5G technology, which the 5G technology represents, will also be the ones that will thrive in the coming years. They will be the ones that will stay competitive, and the ones that will lead in innovation in addition to bringing social economic activities,” Dr Bashir says.
“And so I declare that with the 5G infrastructure,” he adds, “Nigeria will surely be ahead of many countries, especially in Africa. Indeed, with the 5G network, our future as a people and as a country is remarkably bright. The 5G technology is not just a mobile network, but it presents a new culture. A new era of connectivity where billions of devices exchange data and instil intelligence in our everyday life. It creates new intelligent systems. It can help to develop new advanced manufacturing models. I cannot forget to mention the prospect of increased job opportunities as a consequence of value chain benefits the technology will generate and offer.”
For him, “the journey to this day would not have been possible without the government and leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, who deemed it fit to conduct a transparent globally acceptable standard in the auction of 5G spectrum band licences. We thank Mr President for his unwavering commitment to seeing the policy to the end within the span of his administration.”
He also expressed his appreciation to Professor Isa Pantami, Communications and Digital Economy Minister; Professor Garba Danbatta, NCC and was particularly grateful that the government officials “for their support and encouragement especially at the time the challenges look insurmountable.”
The Mafab Communications Chairman, despite the initial delays in service rollout, is excited at the possibilities that his Mcom 5G brand represents another triumph for indigenous participation in the Nigerian telecoms market, and the transformational possibilities of the technology across the country’s nooks and cranny.
“This is the dream that you are all gathered here today to launch,” Dr Bashir tells attendees at the event. “As a company, Mafab is fully committed to bringing the benefits of 5G technology to Nigeria and Nigerians through the development of its brand new network to drive economic and business development with increased broadband capabilities nationwide. As we launch our 5G today, we are also unveiling our brand new logo for the company which heralds the dawn of new infinite possibilities which the technology offers.”
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