At last, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may have roused itself from slumber, to respond to the cries of anguish of Global System for Mobile Telecommunication (GSM) consumers in the country.
There are indications that eight major operators are soon to fall under its hammer. In a recent communication with the operators, NCC gave notice of its intention to issue a directive with respect to quality of service, in accordance with sections 53 and 54 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003. It disclosed its determination to impose a N5million sanction on each of the eight operators, for what it described as "declining quality of service". NCC also warned that failure to comply with the directive when issued would result in the imposition of that amount, with a further sum of N500, 000 per day after the expiration of the notice. This would be paid for as long as the contravention persists and calculated from the deadline specified by the commission for the operator to meet the minimum standard of quality of service.
The regulator pointed out that this notice had become necessary after careful investigation of the quality of service of all the major network operators. It also concluded that the present quality of service being provided falls below the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) published by the commission in the Quality of Service Regulations, 2012.
It insisted that the operators were expected to take all reasonable steps to maintain the threshold published in the Quality of Service Regulations, if they were to avert this sanction.
The implication of this warning, we found out, is that if any of the KPIs fail before December 31, 2013, it would warrant that the sale of SIM cards by the offending operators be stopped. Similarly, failure of the operators to meet with the terms of the agreement with the commission in 2012 would warrant implementation of the KPIs earlier instituted by the commission, which would imply much more drastic action.
Also, the regulatory agency asserted that the stoppage of SIM card sales would not preclude issuance of sanctions as done in 2012, as the commission was angered by the fact that the KPIs were lowered after the sanctions, but the operators did not meet the terms of agreement it entered into with the commission to improve quality over a 12-month period, during which it promised to meet with the KPIs.
We observe that the operators are very rich and powerful and have the clout to subvert any policy directed at curbing their inefficiencies. We also point out that the operators face certain challenges that include, in most cases having to provide their own infrastructure, such as power.
Notwithstanding, we are encouraged to commend NCC on this belated move, in the belief that it will have the political will to see it through, especially as they have the consumers as their collaborators.