MTN, IHS Towers Fight Over New Deal with ATC

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Tower
Tower

MTN Nigeria and IHS Towers are fighting because MTN has signed a new deal with America Tower Corporation (ATC) to takeover 2,500 co-location towers from 2025.

IHS Towers currently manages those towers on behalf of MTN but their deal ends at the close of this year. Even though MTN has already signed a new deal with ATC, there is still a boardroom right between MTN and IHS Towers over the matter.

There is said to be a huge public concern over service disruption due to the fight between the two industry giants.

The federal government of Nigeria has therefore issued a stern warning to MTN and IHS Towers, asking them to not disrupt telecom services amidst their ongoing collocation dispute.

In September, MTN NG announced that its tower operations would be run by the Nigerian subsidiary of ATC from 2025. ATC will be taking over from IHS Towers—whose lease to run MTN’s 2,500 network sites—will expire in 2024 and 2025.

MTN has assured the public that the transition would not disrupt network connectivity. However, IHS Towers has expressed concerns, suggesting potential disruptions, and offered improved commercial terms to MTN in an attempt to retain the contract. MTN NG has not budged, reiterating the finality of the agreement.

Prior to this development, there was an ongoing boardroom fight between IHS Towers and MTN Group over MTN’s request for more control of the tower company. MTN Group holds 26% of IHS Towers but only controls 20% of the voting share. MTN had said that it could not sell its non-voting shares and wanted its stake in the company to be reflected in its voting power. However, IHS Towers said in response that the proposals were not in the company’s best interests.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government is threatening severe sanctions in case of service quality degradation. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has also issued a gag order, restraining the disputing parties from making inflammatory public statements.

Ghana

ATC is the same company that operates majority of co-location telecom towers in Ghana, most of which they acquired from MTN Ghana. ATC Ghana reportedly favors MTN Ghana over other players and that is partially the reason MTN has a competitive edge over the others, contributing to its SMP status.

Recently, the National Communications Authority of Ghana gave ATC Ghana approval to unplug two small operators, Surfline Communications and Busy Ghana for nonpayment of bills. Meanwhile, two legacy telcos, AT Ghana and Vodafone Ghana owes ATC Ghana way more money than those smaller operators do, but government is protecting the two telcos in the interest of the public.

Meanwhile, since ATC Ghana unplugged Surfline and Busy Ghana with the NCA’s approval, NCA, as the regulator, has not championed any arrangements for affected customers to be compensated for their loss. The Nigeria NCC has warned MTN and IHS Towers not to create any service disruption, but NCA just approved a complete service termination for the customers of two operators with zero compensation for months now.

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