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4 Dec 2013

NCC on collision course with operators over QoS, MNP

Baring any positive improvements, telecom operators in Nigeria may head into a collision course with their regulator, the Nigerian communications Commission, NCC, early next year.
Already, the two are standing on different positions on the success and failure of the recently introduced Mobile Number Portability, which was expected to give subscribers respite against the persistent poor quality of telecom services.
Face to face with each other at the second edition of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON organised Telecoms Executives and Regulator’s forum in Lagos at the weekend, operators, including MTN and Etisalat, disagreed that the MNP has achieved desired results, blaming NCC for low awareness of the policy before implementation.
Etisalat’s  Director, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Mr Ibrahim Dikko admitted that much as he believed that the concept of Mobile Number portability was good for the industry, it was yet to be fully accepted by customers due to very little understanding of the concept.
He noted that the best idea would have been to give the concept proper awareness to educate the consumers but decried that it was not done before implementation.
He however put part of the blame on fellow operators who deny subscribers the opportunity to port out of their networks due to debt, saying it was not only wrong but unlawful.
Corroborating him, was his counterpart in MTN, Mr Akinwale Goodluck who also admitted that though MNP has come to stay, it has not achieved the desired results.
According to Goodluck, the whole essence of MNP was defeated with many subscribers already using mobile phones with multiple SIM compartments.
However, NCC also accused the operators of hasty judgement alleging that the operators have even violated the operating principles of the MNP.
Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Dr Eugene Juwah in his reaction, warned the operators: “don’t be in a hurry to criticise the success of Mobile Number Portability because as a regulator, we are watching and have discovered that part of the problem of MNP is also you. Some of you are not keeping to the rules; you deny operators porting rights when they are owing, but that is not the practice; you also refuse to port out high value customers in fear of losing them to your competitors and you also know, this is not the practice”.
Juwah also said there were other rules of the MNP game which the operators were not keeping, threatening that erring operators would soon be sanctioned.
Sanctions hover over QoS
Meanwhile Juwah had also at the recent concluded ITU telecom world summit in Bangkok, Thailand, revealed that most of the operators may receive stiff punishment in the New Year, for failing the Key Performance Indicator, KPI test.
Addressing a world press conference at the event’s media centre, Juwah revealed: “we have discovered that some operators prefer to pay fines and accumulate more subscribers in the hope of gradually expanding their networks to meet the size of their customer base, rather than being overtaken by competition. We do not have problem with that business model but will make the punishments stiffer as they continue to default. Already, in the new year, when the result of our KPI will be out, there surely must be sanctions” he added
Incidentally, the quality of service issue also came up at the Lagos forum and besides the usual reasons often advanced by operators for poor QOS, industry expert and Chief Executive Officer, Global Access Technologies Ltd, Mr Tony Nwosu raised other inadequacies that lead to the abysmal services subscribers are getting.
According to Nwosu, Power supply disruptions, vandalisation of telecoms infrastructures, inadequate network capacity are genuine causes of poor quality of service. But beyond these, inadequate number of base stations, low network switching and transmission capacities are also major contributors.
Comparative analysis
In a comparative analysis between Nigeria and United Kingdom in 2011, Nwosu noted that while UK with 62 million population and 81.6 million subscription had 54,000 base stations, on the ratio of 1511 subscriber per base station, Nigeria with 158 million population as at then and 95 million subscriber base, had only 20 base stations on the ratio of 4750 subscribers per base station.
For Nwosu, to minimise bad QoS and properly service the current 121 million Nigerian subscribers, according to NCC’s September 2013 statistics, the operators must jointly deploy over 80,079 base stations.
He, however, advised the operators to make more investments, particularly on hybrid power systems, to overcome capacity constraints and NCC to apply greater regulatory vigilance and sanctions where necessary to save the industry.


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