BY MIKE EKUNNO
The recent appointment of a new board MANAGEMENT for the Nigerian communications commission has GIVEN stakeholders in the telecommunications industry renewed hope. The previous management of the regulatory body was credited with playing the midwife for the telecoms revolution in Nigeria. However after 8 years of the roll out of GSM technology, the initial teething problems had been surmounted but replaced by new ones. The Nigerian market is reputed to be 78 million SIM cards strong and has produced Africa’s most subscribed network.
But beyond these positive indices lie a spate of consumer-related issues that the new board and management should address. Top on the list of THESE CHALLENGES which the information and communications minister, Prof Dora Akunyili, had tried to get telecoms operators to address is the paradox of high charges in the midst of Nigeria’s large scale economies. It is common economics that the larger the market, the lesser the unit fixed cost. However this economic logic has not been tenable in the Nigerian telecoms industry. Notwithstanding the large market, our tariffs remain among the highest even after providing for exchange rate differentials. Nigeria’s infrastructural inadequacies should not be sufficient excuse for this paradox.
SOMETHING MUST BE WRONG SOMEWHERE. Again, poor voice quality and frequency of drop calls have been the bane of telecoms services in the country. The networks experience frequent congestion at peak periods ESPECIALLY in the major cities. These FAILURES combine to reduce customers’ satisfaction and make them UNABLE to receive value for money. Registration of sim cards has been on the front burner in the industry IN RECENT TIMES. While this may not translate to immediate tangible benefits for individual customers, it has wide benefits. It is widely believed that sim card registration will greatly discourage and reduce crimes committed through THE USE OF mobile phones. These include kidnap and anonymous calls.
However, nobody should be deceived as to the ability of sim card registration to wipe out these crimes. IT does not possess the ABILITY TO wipe out kidnapping. Instead greater use should be made of mapping of call locations using the global positioning system. The issue of telecoms operators going into unregistered lottery promotions has also recently become topical. In the run up to the last world cup tournament in South Africa, many GSM operators abused the business relationship between them and their customers by soliciting for one lottery promo or the other.
There would have been nothing wrong with this practice if not that these promos were hardly registered with the national lottery commission and were sent as sms messages in such a way that they invaded the privacy and sensibilities of the prospects. Other urgent matters in need of attention by the telecoms regulatory authority include the attainment of number portability which will make the acquisition of multiple phones and subscription to different networks unnecessary. The new board and management at the NCC therefore have their work cut out for them.
Source: recorded live from FRCN daily commentary