NCC warns telcos against interconnect debts

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Friday, August 2,2019

Technology

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said there was no justification for the huge interconnect debts threatening the telecom sector.

Its Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who stated this in Abuja, argued that with over 90 per cent of pre-paid customers on mobile networks which meant that cash must be paid before service is rendered, “operators have no reason not to be settling their interconnection bills as and when due.”

He urged the debtor operators to settle their debts without further delay to prevent possible revenue drop and customer flight from their networks to competitors.

Dambatta frowned at the slow pace at reaching settlement over interconnect bills among the affected operators.

He advised subscribers having difficulties in making calls at this time to take advantage of the “multi-SIMing nature of telecoms market.”

The EVC also assured the over 174 million telecoms subscribers of their protection from suffering any service disruption as a result of ongoing regulatory intervention aimed at resolving the rising interconnectivity debts among telecoms operators in the country.

He said as a consumer-centric regulatory agency, the NCC is keen on ensuring that consumers continue to enjoy uninterrupted service while efforts are ongoing to address the issue of indebtedness in the industry.

Danbatta said the issue of interconnection is a matter that the Commission is handling delicately within the purview of the regulatory provisions to protect consumers by ensuring tha quality of experience (QoE) is not compromised.

He said while regulatory approval on permission for disconnection was granted to creditor networks late last year as a last resort towards resolving the huge interconnection debts threatening the health and sustainability of the industry, the Commission is ensuring that no telecoms subscriber is disconnected.

“Though the Commission granted approval to MTN’s request to disconnect debtor networks from its network in line with Section 100 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, the Guidelines on Procedure for Granting Approval to Disconnect Telecoms Operators, 2012 and other regulatory instruments, what is happening now is that the creditor networks are restricting certain services to their debtor networks in form of one-way disconnection.

“It is one-way disconnection because, as a regulator, we prevented total disconnection; not doing that would be frustrating for the consumers. So, we have ensured that subscribers on the affected debtor networks are able to receive calls and text messages from creditor networks. This means they might not be able to make seamless calls or send text messages to the creditor’s network at all times because of restriction of access to debtor networks, pending when satisfactory payment plans are reached with respect to the interconnect debts. This is to prevent further accumulation of interconnect debt by the debtor networks.

“You will recall that in the Pre-Disconnection Notice issued last year on December 18, 2018, we gave another period of between 10-21 days for the debtors (depending on whether they are service networks or exchange operators) to pay, so as not to lose their interconnection rights. We had expected that as responsible business entities, the debtor companies will either pay up or agree satisfactory payment plans with their creditors. But it appears no agreeable settlements plans have been reached after the expiration of the deadline, leading to the creditor’s decision to go ahead with the execution of the one-way disconnection, as permitted by the NCA Act 2003, which is what some subscribers are currently experiencing.”

While assuring subscribers that the issue will soon be resolved, expressed the commitment of the Commission to ensure the settlement of the issue soon.

“As regulator, our central role is to protect the consumers and ensure sustainability of the telecom industry through creating a level-playing field for all the licensees such that no operator is allowed to undermine the operations of another licensee in a way that is capable of negatively impacting on the health of the industry.”

interconnect debts among licensees to accumulate without ensuring settlement is dangerous for our industry and for the telecoms consumers. The ongoing regulatory intervention is a consumerist move on our part as a regulator and we appeal to telecoms consumers for their understanding as we work with operators to resolve the matter,” Danbatta said.

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