Regulator will require merged entity to shed certain spectrum assets

Ghana’s telecom regulator has given the green light to a proposed merger between Bharti Airtel’s local operation and Millicom’s Tigo that will create the country’s second largest mobile operator.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) will allow the deal to go ahead, subject to certain conditions, it announced.

Key amongst these is the requirement for the merged entity to shed some spectrum. The companies must submit a network integration plan to the NCA to explain their plans for relinquishing portions of their total frequency allocation, the regulator said, without stating how much spectrum they are expected to offload.

However, it said the divestment of spectrum will be done on a phased, geographic basis over a period of up to 18 months, it said.

The companies are also required to submit a plan to show how they will inform customers of the change within 30 days of the merger.

The regulator said its approval is also conditional on an "option for government participation," but it did not explain what that might entail.

The NCA has also reached agreement with the merging entities about the terms of their mobile licences. The new entity will have a 3G licence that will be valid until 25 January 2024 and a 2G concession until 30 October 2021.

Once the merger is complete, the new entity will be the second largest mobile operator in Ghana by subscribers. While the additional scale will help it to compete more effectively in the market, it will remain some way behind market leader MTN.

MTN served 47.5% of Ghana’s mobile customers as of July this year, with 17.65 million customers, according to NCA data.

Current number two operator Vodafone claimed 24% of the market, while Tigo and Airtel had 14.8% and 11.4% respectively. As a merged entity, Tigo/Airtel will find itself just over two percentage points ahead of Vodafone, but still more than 20 behind MTN.