In a surprising move, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has denied allegations that MAFAB Communications’ 5G service was a ruse, insisting that the company’s 5G service is live. It issued a rejoinder to a claim on social media that accused MAFAB of failing to launch the service after two years.
According to the NCC, MAFAB obtained its 5G license in February 2022 after paying the sum of $237.6 million. For context, the company, alongside MTN Nigeria and Airtel Nigeria, launched bids for the most sought-after license. However, only MAFAB and MTN succeeded that day. Airtel only got a 5G license the following year.
Following the license acquisition, the NCC explained that MAFAB officially launched operations in Abuja (January 24, 2023) and Lagos (January 26, 2023) respectively. Videos supporting this claim are on the internet. Although the launch event occurred in two cities, the company revealed that it would set up shop in six cities: Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Kano, and Kaduna.
The regulator further said that it monitors MAFAB’s operations, adding that the company shares frequent updates on the “status of infrastructure deployment for service offerings.” This aligns with the conditions for its license.
analysing the NCC’s statement on MAFAB…
On August 1, media and social entrepreneur, Abubakar Sidiq Usman tweeted that MAFAB was yet to roll out its 5G service nearly two years after obtaining the license. He added that the telco also flouted a condition that mandates all 5G licensees to launch their services at most a year after getting approved to operate 5G.
As mentioned, the NCC countered the above claim, insisting that MAFAB’s 5G was fully operational. While the regulator’s response was intended to douse any concerns about the 5G launch, it did the opposite. Usually, companies have PR teams whose primary duty is to ensure their employer always has a pristine reputation.
In this instance, the regulator, an entity expected to not favour any industry player, chose to handle the task of disputing Usman’s tweet. That move made some tweeps question the authenticity of MAFAB’s 5G launch. @pdauda tweeted “Instead of the regulator ostensibly running PR for an industry player, MAFAB should ensure they have a functional website and maybe share testimonials from actual verifiable customers.”
So far, the chatter about MAFAB’s 5G service is next to zero. Even Starlink, a relatively new entrant in Nigeria’s highly competitive telecoms market, has customers bemoaning its signal strength when it rains. Whether the feedback is good or bad, what matters is the feedback. It validates the service’s existence.
MAFAB’s website doesn’t exactly do a good job of vindicating the company. For instance, there’s no information about the cost of 5G bundles or tariff plans.
A handful of tweeps agreed with the initial allegation with @XBTNooB calling MAFAB “a fraud” and @OIFezulike asking if any institution still functions in Nigeria. Of all the comments, @Abiodun’s response (and the reply to his remark) stood out.
The tweep stated that the selection process was dubious. Replying to that comment, @ZukoZaraki claimed that MAFAB legitimately raised the money for the bid. @Zuko named Lighthouse Capital, an investment company, as one of its financiers. The tweep further stated that Lighthouse eventually withdrew their funds when MAFAB allegedly “reneged on their equity agreement.”
The aftermath of Lighthouse’s decision, according to @Zuko, negatively affected MAFAB’s ability to deploy its 5G network. The tweep hinted that MAFAB may be forced to sell off its spectrum to Glo or EMTS if other alternatives fail.
What MAFAB can do
When news broke that MTN Nigeria and another relatively unknown company had secured 5G licenses, many people were eager to know who MAFAB was. More importantly, they cared to know how a company founded in 2020 raised over $200 million to win the license bid.
Fast forward to today and the doubts about the company remain. Following the NCC’S attempt to dispel rumours about its 5G availability, MAFAB should issue an official statement that corroborates the regulator. For more effect, it can spotlight feedback from customers to show Nigerians that it offers 5G. Until either or both of those happen, the doubts are unlikely to fade.
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