Some of us would wonder why you’d find a Visafone mobile unit in almost every Zenith bank branch nationwide. For the sake of clarification, this is because Zenith bank owner – Jim Ovia -- also owned the telecommunication company.
Sadly, this will no longer be the case as MTN Nigeria recently acquired Visafone Communications Limited -- Nigeria’s surviving Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator. The deal, which was approved by the NCC in late December 2015 allows, MTN Nigeria to utilise Visafone’s 800MHz spectrum to launch Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) services.
Putting their pending court case aside, MTN Nigeria and the NCC on this note, find a common course to agree upon while fulfilling the objective of spreading mobile phones and internet adoption to virtually every Nigerian.
The move will give MTN edge over other mobile operators as the first major operator to introduce 4G voice telephony (VoLTE). MTN has already launched in South Africa in 2013 and since then has been looking at how it could launch the technology in Nigeria. This acquisition will just be that long waited opportunity to actualize that.
This feat however isn’t without some sour episodes, as the acquisition has led to the laying off of Visafone staff. The CDMA operator has moved to wind down majority of its operations in the country. Sources claim MTN is not planning to take along the liabilities of the CDMA Company, and hence their reason for the massive staff layoff. The only categories of staff said to be left are the personnel on the transmission team.
An affected worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claims that the sack came as a surprise to majority of them.
“We learnt that the management would downsize, though later in 2016. It is however, surprising that they are sending majority of us away so early in the year”. Though they paid three months’ severance benefit.
“This is about the third time that we are downsizing. The second one was in 2013. This is the third one which began last year but was only communicated to the affected staff on Tuesday January 5, 2015. Our key personnel are still retained” said a source familiar with the transaction.
Another source at MTN Nigeria said its headquarters in South Africa will formally issue a statement before the week runs out, and up until press time last, the value of the final transactions is yet to be established.
The plan is to have over two million existing Visafone subscribers migrated onto the MTN Nigeria network, a development that will now enable them use their voice and data services, anywhere where the latter has network coverage.