With telecoms regulator declaring 2017 as Year of Telecomms Consumer, mobile subscribers across networks have listed their current challenges regarding quality of service (QoS), which they want the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to focus on. KUNLE AZEEZ reports
Over the last 16 years of telecoms deregulation, the number of mobile subscribers on various telecoms networks has grown significantly. From a paltry 500,000 mobile lines in 2001, the industry has grown to over 230 million connected lines with over 154.1 million of them active on their respective networks and another over 85 million inactive.
In all, mobile penetration relative to the 180 million population in the country is said to have surpassed 50 per cent while Internet penetration stands at 46 per cent. However, analysts have traced the outstanding growth so far recorded in the industry to the conscious efforts being made by the NCC to engender conducive regulatory climate for all players.
According to records from the telecoms regulator, from less than $500 million investment in the industry as at 2001, Nigeria’s telecommunications industry has now increased its local and foreign investment profile to over $68 billion.
With over 500 different licensees playing in the nation’s telecoms industry, the NCC has not only created a level-playing ground for the operators but also directed attention at monitoring the level quality of service (QoS) being provider for subscribers by the operators.
It is instructive that part of the overall statutory responsibilities of the NCC, as contained in Chapter VII of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, is to ensure adequate protection for telecoms consumers.
Boosting subscribers’ protection
Already, because of how central the position telecoms consumers occupy as third pillar of the industry, after the regulator and operators, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, recently flagged a campaign aimed at raising the bar of telecoms consumer protection.
Justifying the need for 2017 as Year of Telecom Consumer, Danbatta noted that subscribers have contributed immensely to the revenue generated by the telcos, which they, in turn, use to expand the network, thereby expanding the size of the industry. “In 2015, Nigerian telecom consumers spent a whopping $5.6billion on telecommunications services. And in 2016, they topped it up by another $1billion to make it $6.6billion,” he said.
With these words, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC flagged off 2017 year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer in Abuja on March 15, 2017. Stressing the preeminence of the consumer in the industry and what the regulator intends to achieve with the new campaign, Danbatta said: “A management decision that compels us to seek to amplify our activities towards ensuring the consumer enjoys a customer experience that is enhanced and content in time and quality.”
According to him, the patronage of the consumer is important. “So, NCC acknowledges this and that is why in 2017 and I dare say and even beyond, the consumer will be our focus,” Danbatta declared. According to him, NCC intends to inform and educate the consumer with the sole intent of protecting and empowering them to make the right decisions.
“The telecom weak link, rightly or wrongly is the consumer” Danbatta declared again, adding that there are no small consumers as those who scratch N200.00 worth of card and the one who spends N100,000.00 are equal,” he said. He noted that item 2 on the Commission’s 8-point Agenda, which was unveiled in Lagos early this year, aptly captured efforts at furthering consumer’s right in the sector.
Subscribers list challenges
Meanwhile, with the NCC unveiling the campaign to further bring the protection, rights and interest of telecoms consumers within Nigeria at the front burner, telecoms subscribers across the country have listed a number of challenges facing them, which they expect the regulator to focus on this year.
Poor QoS, unsolicited SMS
Firing the first salvo was the President, National Association of Telecom Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo. He said finding solutions to the twin issues of poor service quality and unsolicited text massages should be the focus of NCC. Ogunbanjo, who expressed worry over the incessant broadcast of unsolicited text messages, despite several complaints from subscribers and subsequent warnings from the NCC, said telecoms services are deteriorating across networks and subscribers are debited for poor voice clarity and undelivered text messages.
Ogunbanjo, therefore, called on NCC to take the issue of poor service quality and unsolicited text messages very seriously as soon as it begins to unfold activities aimed at truly making 2017 a year of telecom consumers.
Another Lagos-based subscriber, Mr. Biodun Adewale, particularly pointed out that to achieve better quality of service, NCC should strengthen collaboration with other industry stakeholders to resolve cases of vandalism and multiple taxations, among others.
Aside service quality and unsolicited text messages, Ogunbanjo also urged NCC to look into the issue of price cap regulation for possible amendment. “NCC has been operating the N50 Price Cap Regulation since 2001 to date. We want NCC to reduce the current unrealistic and exploitative price cap of N50 per minute,” Ogunbanjo said
He also said there was need for the new board to address the issue about restoration of land lines by the national carriers, backed by a low inter-connect rates in line with international best practices. “The current land line inter-connect rate does not encourage the use of land lines,” he said, stressing that reviving land line will make telecoms services more affordable to all.
In order to reduce cybercrime, NCC is also expected this year to interface with the Police and other law enforcement agencies in order to make mobile phone/cybercrime reporting process, easy and less cumbersome, said Badejo Jude, an Ogun- State-based businessman. Jude said the current mobile phone/cybercrime reporting process is very stressful, cumbersome and excessively engaging.
KPIs for service deliveries
Following cases of unfair billings on the part of the operators towards consumers, resulting in loss of about N360 billion by the subscribers annually, the NCC has also been tasked to deploy this year to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI) parameters for data service as it is the case for voice services.
However, subscribers believe that the current practice, where operators fall short of KPI parameters and huge fines are imposed on the operators, which go to government coffers, is to say the least, highly exploitative and unsavory of the subscribers, who suffers the injury and the brunt of poor quality service and other unauthorised deductions.
Meanwhile, by providing unique and timely information to empower the consumer, by engaging stakeholders in a constructive way to ensure that they work with the NCC and by ensuring quality of service across board, telecoms subscribers say the regulator would be living up to its campaign to take consumer issues more seriously this year and consequently putting the industry on further path of growth.