VENTURES AFRICA – Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN on Friday reported a 4% rise in subscribers for the first quarter. This increase was helped by subsriber growth in its key markets of South Africa, Nigeria and Iran.

MTN, which is currently the target of a lawsuit from rival Turckcell, said in a statement its subscribers totalled 170.6 million at the end of March, from 164.5 million at the end of December.

The number of subscribers rose by around 3% in South Africa and Nigeria, while its customers in Iran increased by more than 6%.

Iran has been a significant moneyspinner for MTN, although it has also brought serious controversy in the shape of the lawsuit slapped against the telecommunications gaint.

More controversy?

In a separate development, Nigeria’s telecommunications authorities Thursday threatened to impose sanctions on an affiliate of MTN Nigeria over alleged poor service to subscribers.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued the warning to MTN Nigeria Communication in a statement following somewhat persistent complaints from subscribers in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, and its environs who have in recent times experienced difficulties using their phones on the MTN network severally.

According to the NCC, MTN had neither informed its subscribers nor communicated the development to the state-run regulator, as required.

The commission ordered the telecoms firm to provide it with a report on the situation within 24 hours, including details of what was being done “to urgently address the problem.” It also hinted that failure to comply would attract sanctions.

At as the time the statement was issued, officials of MTN were unavailable for comment.

MTN Nigeria has the largest subscriber base in what is Africa’s most populous nation, with more than 90 million customers there. It remains one of the MTN Group’s key markets and revenue bank.

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