An Overview of the Implication of the Temporary Suspension of Issuance of Operational Licenses to Communications Firms.


The Licensing Regulations 2019[1] (the Regulation) was enacted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on 11th January, 2019 under the authority conferred by sections 33 and 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act[2] to govern the licensing processes for communication services in Nigeria. [3]These regulations covered various types of licenses including individual licenses, class licenses, frequency licenses, and any other license categories specified by the Commission.[4]

According to the Regulation, any entity intending to offer communication services within Nigeria was mandated to acquire a license from the Commission. However, the Commission retained the discretion to grant exemptions from the licensing requirement to specific communication services or groups of individuals by issuing exemption orders. Before granting such exemptions, the Commission was obligated to ensure that the services provided by the exempted entity would not cause disruption or harm to other service providers or consumers.[5]

On the 17th of May, 2024, The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) announced a temporary suspension on the issuance of new licenses in three categories: Interconnect Exchange, Mobile Virtual Network Operator, and Value-Added Service Aggregator. This move aims to facilitate a comprehensive review of competition levels, market saturation, and current market dynamics within these categories. Effective from May 17, 2024, no new applications for these licenses will be accepted, but pending applications will still be evaluated.[6] This overview examines the potential impacts of this suspension.

Key Categories

The suspension applies to three types of communications licenses:

  • Interconnect Exchange License: This license allows licensees to install, maintain, and operate interconnection and transmission facilities for voice and data traffic exchange among telecommunication network service operators in Nigeria.
  • Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) License: Introduced in 2022, this license permits holders to offer telecommunication products and services by partnering with and leveraging the spectrum and infrastructure capacity of telecommunication license holders or Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
  • Value-Added Service (VAS) Aggregator License: This license enables direct and secure connections to content and application providers for access to network operators capable of transmitting VAS to end users.

Purpose of the suspension

  • Market Review and Competition Assessment: The NCC aims to conduct a comprehensive review of the telecommunications market, including an assessment of market saturation and competition dynamics prevalent within the sector. The Commission seeks to gain a comprehensive understanding of the current market landscape by temporarily suspending new license issuance. This pause will enable the regulatory body to pinpoint areas where competition may be deficient or where high levels of market concentration exist, potentially hindering a healthy competitive environment.
  • Quality of Service Evaluation: The temporary suspension of new license issuance allows the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to concentrate its efforts on evaluating and enhancing the quality of service delivered by the existing telecommunication service providers operating under current licenses. During this period, the NCC can conduct a comprehensive analysis of the performance metrics of the incumbent operators. This scrutiny will enable the regulatory body to identify and address any deficiencies or shortcomings in service delivery standards. Ultimately, this focused evaluation aims to facilitate improvements in the overall quality of service experienced by consumers, ensuring that the telecommunications industry meets the desired benchmarks for excellence.
  • Promotion of Fair Competition: A core aim for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is promoting fair competition among telecom operators. The suspension allows NCC to review licensing requirements and terms, ensuring a level playing field that fosters healthy competition and curbs monopolistic practices within the industry.
  • Sustainable Industry Growth: The Nigerian Communications Commission’s objectives extend beyond merely facilitating market entry for new players. The regulatory body is committed to fostering sustainable growth and development within the telecommunications industry as a whole. By implementing a temporary pause on the issuance of new licenses, the NCC aims to encourage existing operators to redirect their efforts toward enhancing their infrastructure capabilities, improving the quality of services offered to consumers, and driving innovation within their respective organizations. This strategic move is designed to promote a forward-looking telecommunications landscape, where operators are incentivized to invest in long-term growth and technological advancements, ultimately benefiting the industry and the Nation.

Potential implications of the Temporary Suspension of the Issuance of Communications Licenses

  • Market Consolidation: In the absence of new entrants, the current telecommunications operators may consolidate their market positions, potentially resulting in increased market concentration and reduced competition in the short term.
  • Impact on Innovation: The absence of new market players could potentially stifle innovation, as established operators may have reduced motivation to introduce new products, services, or technologies to maintain a competitive edge.
  • Monopolistic Tendencies: If the suspension persists, it could empower dominant players to partake in anti-competitive activities, such as predatory pricing or exclusive agreements, potentially leading to monopolistic tendencies in certain market segments.
  • Service Quality Impact: The temporary suspension may compel existing operators to enhance their service quality and infrastructure to meet consumer demands, given the reduced competition during the suspension period.
  • Implications for Investment: The suspension could impact investor confidence in the telecommunications sector, potentially deterring new investments or expansions until the regulatory landscape becomes more predictable and stable.
  • Regulatory Scrutiny: The NCC may utilize this opportunity to closely scrutinize the operations of existing operators, potentially resulting in stricter enforcement of regulations or the implementation of new rules to foster competition and safeguard consumer interests.


The temporary suspension of operational license issuance by the NCC is a strategic move with wide-ranging implications for the communications industry. Though it may introduce short-term uncertainties and challenges, the thorough market review and potential regulatory adjustments promise long-term benefits.

 It is imperative for stakeholders, including businesses, investors, and consumers, to diligently track the unfolding developments and proactively prepare for the requisite adjustments in response to the evolving regulatory framework.

[1] Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette, S.I. No 15, pg. B119 -147.

[2] Nigerian Communications Act C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

[3] Reg. 1, Licensing Regulation 2019, Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette, Government Notice No. 24, Vol. 106, pg. B119-147(Regulation).

[4] Reg. 2(a)-(d) Regulation.

[5] Reg. 5(1) Regulation. This provision is also contained in Section 31 of the Act

[6] Temporary Suspension of the Issuance of Communications Licences in Three (3) Categories (