6 December 2012

Nigeria: Network Challenges - Telecoms Operators Risk More Sanctions

As mobile network challenges continue to bite hard on telecoms subscribers across all networks, there are clear indications that telecoms operating companies may face another round of sanctions, if the threats from the Minister of Communications Technology and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), are reliable.

Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, had told Bloomberg recently that the Federal Government may levy more fines against telecommunications companies if their services did not improved by the time service quality checks were carried out this December.

Director Public Affairs for NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo had also told THISDAY in an interview that another round of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) test would be carried out this December to further ascertain the quality of service being offered by telecoms operating companies.

Ojobo said the decision to carry out another round of test, was reached between the NCC and the operating companies in June this year, shortly after the NCC fined MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and Etisalat, a combined fee of N1.17 billion as penalty for poor service quality in the KPIs test carried out for the months of March and April 2012.

Ojobo revealed that the NCC was already concluding plans to begin the network quality test, insisting that any operator found wanting after the test by the end of this December, would face severe sanctions that would be decided by the NCC.

Going by the trend, a subscriber to Etisalat and Globacom, Mr. Sunday Afolabi said all the operators would not miss the sanction, should the NCC make do its threat.

According to him, "we are already in the month of December and the network quality is terribly bad across networks, an indication that the telecoms operators are not ready to improve on their networks, yet they are busy increasing their subscriber number by the day."

He said past experience had shown that the networks were always congested at yuletide seasons because more people make calls and send text messages during the season, instead of the old tradition of posting and sending 'greeting cards' to their loved ones. He expressed fears that if network quality could still be bad as at now, then there is every possibility that the quality will worsen this December because of the yuletide celebrations.

Poor service quality had been a reoccurring decimal, just as the NCC had applied several measures to address the menace. Only recently, the telecoms regulatory body banned all telecoms promos and lotteries across networks, attributing the recent congestions to promos and lotteries. Although NCC felt there had been some significant improvements in service quality since the indefinite ban last month, critics of the ban said the network quality remained poor, even after the ban.

In their defence, telecoms operating companies blamed the network challenges on wilful destruction of telecoms facilities in some northern parts of the country, and the recent flooding in some southern parts of the country, claiming that both disasters affected several base stations that carry traffic signals, which eventually affected service quality. MTN on its part said the company was on a nationwide network modernisation exercise that would address the challenge of poor service quality, at the end of the exercise that is expected to be completed at the end of the first quarter of 2013.

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