Nigerian regulator aims to limit MTN mobile dominance

Nigeria's telecoms regulator has ordered South African mobile operator MTN to charge customers the same rate whether calling rival operators or other MTN users, in order to reduce its market dominance, it said on Friday.

MTN has 44 percent of the mobile phone market in Africa's second biggest economy and charges its customers three times more to call rival operators than for calls between MTN users, the Nigerian Communications Commission said.

"This is indicative of the likely establishment of a calling club for MTN subscribers," NCC said in a statement on its website.

"The tariff for onnet (calling MTN users) and offnet (calling other operators) will be the same, and subject to periodic review," the regulator said. It said changes would apply from May 1.

MTN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It operates in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The change will probably provide benefit MTN's main rivals; Nigeria's Globacom, Indian-owned Bharti Airtel and Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Corp., better known as Etisalat.

MTN's well-established Nigeria network earned it $2.5 billion in core profit in 2010 and again in 2011, making Africa's most populous country by far its most lucrative market.