12 October 2017

Nigeria: Data Rollover - Telcos Give NCC Condition for Compliance

Telecommunication operators (telcos) have resolved to comply fully with the recent directive given them by the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on data rollover but on one condition.

The telcos said they have agreed to fully comply with the regulatory directive on data rollover on the condition that NCC must revisit the suspended data price floor, which seeks to increase data tariff.

Data price floor in technical parlance, is one of the regulatory safeguards normally put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anticompetitive practices particularly by the dominant operators. It is a minimum price on data services as stipulated by government or the regulator.

NCC had last week, directed all telecoms operators to henceforth give 14 day window to subscribers after the expiration of their monthly data subscription to enable them exhaust their unused data bundle before rolling over.

The directive is sequel to the myriad of complaints received by NCC from telecoms subscribers that their respective service providers do not give them enough time to exhaust their monthly data subscription plan before they were either disconnected or forced to roll over the excess data bundle to the next month after purchasing another monthly data plan.

The decision by NCC to address subscribers' complaints may not be unconnected with its resolve to always protect the interest of telecoms consumers, after declaring 2017 as the year of telecoms consumers.

Although the directive may likely affect the revenue stream of telecoms operators, especially the smaller operators, but the operators said they would comply, rather than flex muscles with the regulator, since it is a regulatory directive.

Looking at the implication of the directive on data rollover and the 14- day window, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said the telecoms service providers have to comply with the directive, since it is a regulatory directive. He, however, raised the issue of the suspended data floor price, which in his views, must be addressed by the NCC in order to protect the operators from running at a loss in their telecoms business, just the same way the NCC is protecting telecoms consumers.

According to Adebayo, "Directive of this nature will underscore the importance of the data floor price that was suspended by NCC, following complaints from the same telecoms subscribers that the NCC is protecting. In protecting the telecoms consumers, NCC must also balance the situation by revisiting the suspended data floor price, which seeks to fix a new price cap for data services across networks."

He said if NCC must enforce the 14-day window on data rollover, it must also consider the reintroduction of the suspended data floor price in order to cushion the effect of the loss of revenue that operators would face based on the directive.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who gave the directive in Minna, Niger State, during a telecoms consumer forum organised by the NCC, advised the consumers to call NCC on the toll-free line, 622, if their complaints were not resolved by their network providers, assuring them that the commission will take up the matter and resolve it, where the operators failed to do so.

NCC had on November 1, 2016, written to the mobile network operators (MNOs) on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after a stakeholders consultative meeting of October 19, 2016. As at November 1, 2016, the industry average for data tariff floor for dominant operators including MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, EMTS Limited (Etisalat), now 9mobile, and Airtel Nigeria Limited, was N0.53k/MB. But the interim price floor as introduced by NCC, which was to commence with effect from December 1, 2016, sought to increase the industry average for data tariff from 53k/MB to 90k/MB.

Considering the new rate of N90k/MB as contained in the interim floor price for data services, MTN went ahead to inform its over 61 million subscribers that it would increase data tariff with effect from December 1, 2016. The announcement by MTN raised a lot of dust among subscribers across networks, who called on NCC and the operators to rescind the decision of data tariff hike.

Following the complaints from subscribers, NCC decided to suspend any further action in that direction till date.

Report: Adoption of Mobile Broadband Will Boost Economies

Emma Okonji

A recent Ericsson Research report conducted in collaboration with the Imperial College of London, reveals that countries who adopt mobile broadband to boost economy, stand the chance of having a solid overall economic development.

The research report, titled 'How Important Are Mobile Broadband Networks for Global Economic Development', examined data adoption and usage from 135 countries. The report reveals that as mobile broadband penetration increases by 10 per cent, it causes a 0.6-2.8 per cent rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which translates to an equivalent of approximately $500-$2000 billion, worldwide in 2016.

In Nigeria, the federal government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), had since adopted the broadband strategy as enshrined in the five-year National Broadband Plan of the country, which seeks to grow broadband penetration in the country from 10 per cent in 2003 to 30 per cent in 2018. The federal government is also concerned about deepening government activities through broadband, by providing ubiquitous broadband access to all Nigerians at the cheapest rate ever. Currently, Nigeria has attained 93 per cent internet connectivity, the more reason why the country needed ubiquitous broadband access to sustain the number of persons connected to the internet, via mobile phones.

Previous reports have examined fixed broadband and researchers have only been able to estimate its effect on economic growth. The Ericsson survey, on the other hand, has been able to conclude that the introduction of mobile broadband has an immediate positive effect on a country's economy, and a longer-term knock-on effect as mobile broadband gradually spreads to different economies.

Master Researcher in Macroeconomics at Ericsson Research and one of the report authors, Harald Edquist, said: "Many countries in the developing world have used mobile broadband technology to leapfrog in their economic development in the past 10-15 years. I believe that if these countries, and others continue to invest wisely in mobile broadband, they will have an excellent opportunity to continue to reap the benefits of continuous productivity improvements and new economic opportunities that simply would not be possible without mobile broadband."

Mobile broadband networks have spread rapidly, and are set to continue doing so. The 2017 Ericsson Mobility Report stated that at the end of 2016, around 3.2 billion subscribers, out of the world's total population of 7.4 billion, had access to the internet via mobile broadband technology. It is forecast that an additional 2.6 billion subscribers will have mobile broadband internet access by 2022.

A GSMA study shows that in Africa, limited network coverage remains a key barrier to mobile internet adoption. Presently, mobile broadband networks cover around 50 per cent of the population, meaning that 600 million people in the region do not have access to a mobile broadband service.

In order to ensure efficient mobile broadband adoption in different economies of the world, the Ericsson Research Report, recommended that stable and efficient policies and regulations are essential for mobile operators to have the best conditions to roll out mobile broadband networks in underserved areas, as private investment depends heavily on the regulatory climate.

The findings from the reports served as the backbone of discussions during United Nation (UN) Week in New York, that held few weeks ago from September 16-22, where Ericsson participated in discussions with global stakeholders, including the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, about the world economy and the beneficial role that ICT could play in the development of economies.

"We have always challenged traditional ways of thinking. Being true to our company purpose of innovating technology for good and creating new economic opportunities we make life better, whether through connecting people in new ways, building technologies for industries in transformation or creating a more inclusive society. This is set to continue as we enter an era of 5G, IoT and cloud network infrastructure," Edquist said.

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