24 December 2018

Nigeria: NCC Introduces Harmonised Short Codes for Telecoms Industry

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has introduced the telecoms industry harmonised short codes that will simplify usage and access to telecoms services by telecoms consumers.

Head of Fixed Network at NCC, Tony Ikemefuna, who made the disclosure at the second stakeholder's forum on Value Added Services, organised by NCC in Lagos recently, said the harmonisation was also meant to sanitise the short code systems in the industry, which before now, were many with specific functions that often confused telecoms subscribers in accessing telecoms services.

Reading out the new harmonised short codes, Ikemefuna said the codes would be subjected to final approval after NCC must have collated feedbacks from VAS operators concerning the new harmonised codes.

According to him, the new system code for checking airtime balance will be same for all the networks, likewise for data balance and other services. He added that current codes being used by the telcos would run concurrently with the new codes for 12 months and 12 months for VAS providers, after which the old codes would be phased out.

Speaking on behalf of the VAS providers, the National Coordinator of Wireless Applications Service Providers Association of Nigeria (WASPAN), Mr. Chijioke Ezeh, said the harmonisation would help sanitise the use of numbers in the sector.

"The good thing is that we have enough time for the harmonisation and the eventual take off of the new code, which will also make the subscribers understand that a particular set of numbers are used for particular services" he said.

The commission however said there was no going back on its ban of auto-renewal of telecoms services, which include VAS.

This came on the heels of appeals by the VAS providers who claimed that their businesses have crumbled as a result of the ban.

Speaking at the forum, NCC's Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Mr. Efosa Idehen, said ongoing investigations across the networks have shown rampant cases of forceful subscriptions.

According to him, many subscribers were being charged for services they never subscribed and that was because they were able to auto-renew such services. He however, admitted that the audit also showed that some VAS providers were doing their legitimate businesses on the networks without compelling subscribers to patronise their services.

He said the audit of the mobile networks' systems was still ongoing and would be concluded by first quarter 2019, after which recommendations would be made and fresh decisions to be taken by the regulator.

He urged WASPAN as industry association to do a self-assessment and weed out the bad eggs among them before the regulator takes its final decision.

Speaking earlier, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the purpose of the forum was to develop effective partnership and collaboration with VAS providers and the mobile network operators (MNOs) to meet the needs of the consumers.

Danbatta, who was represented by the Director of Technical Standard and Network Integrity, Bako Wakil, said the NCC as a consumer-centric regulator, would continue to ensure that the interest of the consumer is protected. He said the geometric increase in the number of VAS providers is an indication of growing interest in the telecoms sector.

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