25 July 2017

Nigeria: NCC May Sanction Telcos Over Call Masking, Summons Operators

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, has warned telecoms operators to desist from getting involved with call masking and call refilling on their networks, or risk sanctions.

The NCC also summoned two of the telecoms operators to a meeting, suspected to be conniving with callers on their networks to mask their telephone numbers, while making calls.

The two operators are expected to meet with the NCC in Abuja on Thursday this week to explain their involvement in call masking, which the NCC said, amounted to national security risk and threat to the Nigerian economy.

NCC gave the telecoms operators one week ultimatum to ensure that no call masking and refilling activity take place on their networks. They were given till Friday July 28, 2017 to clean up their networks of call masking and refilling activity.

In technical parlance, call masking is an attempt by callers to hide their numbers when making calls, especially international calls, which are not charged, because the caller's identity is completely hidden on the network.

NCC's investigation showed that most operators are in connivance with international callers to operate masked calls in Nigeria. NCC said such act could breach national security, if not addressed.

Part of the NCC's letter dated July 24, 2017, and addressed to the two telecoms operators, read: "The commission has been investigating this unwholesome practice of call masking and refilling in the telecoms industry before and after complaints, and our initial findings show that the practice is currently widespread. Due to serious security and economic implications of the practice, the commission is by this letter, giving your organisation a deadline of Friday, July 28, 2017, to ensure no call masking and call refilling activity takes place on your network."

According to the letter, "The commission explicitly prohibits the practice and as such shall carry out robust compliance monitoring and enforcement actions after the expiration of the deadline, to ensure full compliance with the directive.

"The commission shall fully apply relevant regulatory sanctions on your organisation if found to be in breach post the one week deadline. In addition, there may be additional actions carried out against your organisation if found in breach of the directive after the stated guideline, by relevant security agencies under the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), due to national security implications.

"You are by this letter, invited to a meeting with the Commission at 11am on Thursday July 27, 2017 at the Commission's headquarters in Abuja. The Chief Technical Officer and other relevant members of your organisation are required to attend the meeting," the NCC letter further directed.

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