Airtel Uganda agrees to pay for NTO licence

Airtel Uganda agrees to pay for NTO licence

Operator Airtel Uganda has finally secured an operating licence to replace the one that ran out a few years ago.

Ugandan press reports indicate that Airtel Uganda has agreed to pay Shs272 billion (about $74.4 million) for a National Telecom Operator Licence to allow it to continue operating in the country. The new licence is backdated to 1 July 2020 and is for a period of 20 years.

According to Uganda’s Eagle Online site, after the expiry of its licence in 2017 Airtel applied for a renewal of its Public Service Provider (PSP) and Public Infrastructure Provider (PIP) licenses, paying the $100,000 required in November 2018. However, it seems that operators covering 50 percent or more of the country, which Airtel certainly does, needed to pay for an NTO license, which is significantly more expensive.

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) recently introduced six new license categories: National Telecom Operator (NTO) license; National Public Service Provider (NPSP) License, Regional Public Service Provider (RPSP), National Public Infrastructure Provider (NPIP) License, Regional Public Infrastructure Provider (RPIP) License and License to provide Communal Access.

If an operator covers over 65 per cent of the geographical boundary of Uganda or is operating in three regions, it may need to pay for a national (as opposed to regional) license in the NTO, NPIP or NPSP category. These considerations are apparently relevant to the country’s main operators MTN, Airtel, UTL and Africell. 

This development will certainly please Airtel’s rivals, which have argued that Airtel’s cheaper licence, which seems to have been priced as regional, gave it an advantage, allowing it to pay a fraction of the costs incurred by the likes of MTN which renewed its licence for around $100 million in June this year.

Airtel has released a statement on this situation, which outlines its service obligations and adds: “Airtel Uganda commits to achieving coverage of 90 percent of the geographical boundary of Uganda within five years of the effective date of the licence – with a minimum obligation of providing voice and data services.”