BY CHIMA AKWAJA
Amid poor quality of service, increasing and fraudulent costs of tariff by mobile network operators (MNOs) on telecommunications consumers, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) says it is bent on sanitising the telecommunications ecosystem in such a way that all stakeholders will be proud of services and products on offer across all network. CHIMA AKWAJA writes.
he Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), declared 2017 “The Year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer.” NCC had already flagged off the programme few months in ago in Abuja, but on Wednesday this week, it brought to Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos to emphasize the position of Lagos State as the telecommunications hub of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics in its first quarter telecommunications sector report for 2016 placed Lagos voice subscriber base at 19.04 million or 12.8 per cent of the country’s subscribers and 12.62 million internet subscription or 13.65 per cent. The state is home to many of the key players in the telecommunications sector so it is understandable that is has been selected as the flag off city after the major event in Abuja on March 15 2017.
According to the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Danbatta, the NCC 2017 Year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer is remarkable because the Nigerian Telecom Consumer is centre stage. “We must also remember that these consumers together have made all the success stories we speak about possible in the telecom industry today.
“Almost two months ago (March 15) NCC flagged off a national campaign of the Year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer at its Headquarters in Abuja. Sixty days hence, I am glad; we can report some progress resulting in increase in the activation of the Do-Not-Disturb short code using the 2442 facility, by more than one million consumers in this short span. More subscribers reported their unresolved complaints using NCC’s 622 toll-free lines in the same period” he remarked” he said. Danbatta further disclosed that NCC consumer conversations are going on simultaneously every month in the six zones across the country
Consumers As Focal Point
Danbatta said the year 2017 is dedicated to the Nigerian telecom consumer. This followed a management decision that compelled NCC to seek to amplify the year’s activities towards ensuring that the consumer enjoys a customer experience that is enhanced and consistent in time and quality. “In 2017, and even beyond, the consumer will be our focus. NCC intends to inform and educate the consumer with the sole intent of protecting and empowering them to make the right decisions.
The NCC boss said as a regulator, NCC has the mandate to ensure all its key stakeholders are protected and their interests balanced in an atmosphere of fairness, transparency and within the framework of the NCA 2003 and other subsidiary legislations. Almost one year ago the NCC launched an 8-Point Agenda.
The agenda, which will drive the NCC until 2020 aims, among other things, to: facilitate broadband penetration; improve quality of service; optimize usage and benefits of spectrum; promote ICT innovation and investment opportunities; facilitate strategic collaboration and partnership; protect and empower consumers; promote fair competition and inclusive growth and ensure regulatory excellence and operational efficiency.
Improving Quality of Service
The Year of the Consumer is focused on two key areas: improving the quality of service; protecting and educating the consumer. To address the unsolicited calls received by consumers, the NCC has introduced the ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) facility where consumers are urged to activate the facility by texting 2442. There is also the 622 number for the NCC customer toll free complaint line. NCC intends to increase the awareness level and equally the activation level of these two initiatives.
“In its determination to ensure that the consumer experiences improved quality of service in the year and beyond, the commission is implementing measures to ensure drop call rate reduces and meets its industry benchmark of less than one per cent (<1% DCR) target. The commission is closely monitoring, tracking and reviewing the key performance indicators (KPIs) of operators by the Network Integrity and Technical Standards Department. Greater efforts would also be put in place for compliance monitoring and enforcement of set standards.
“The Commission will also enlighten consumers about the environmental impact of telecom infrastructure. As part of efforts to realize NCC 2017 Year of the Consumer, I have convened a meeting with MNOs and infrastructure providers to demand that the quality of services must be improved upon immediately. This is to ensure that the consumer gets value for money and gets satisfactory user experience.
“There are sanctions for failing to meet KPIs. NCC will not hesitate to enforce them and might consider making them even more stringent. NCC is mindful of the forex challenge faced by the telcos. We have intervened with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Already this intervention is beginning to yield some results. We are sure that in the not too distant future, the forex challenge will be addressed to the benefit of both the consumer and the operators,” Danbatta revealed.
Danbatta said that when the year is ended, the NCC should be able to measure the success and impact of this initiative by the level of awareness created among consumers and the number of consumers that have activated the 2442 facility. “It is my hope that the Nigerian telecom consumer would consistently get the right quality experience and value for money” he added.
Engaging With Mobile Network Operators
Executive Commissioner, stakeholder management, NCC, Mr Sunday Dare on his part noted that for the first time, NCC is singling out the consumer and dedicating a year of activities towards safeguarding the rights, protecting the interests, and empowering the consumer to make informed decisions – but above all, to place the consumer atop the stakeholder ladder of the NCC. With a base of over 154 million subscribers, the Nigerian consumers dominate the African telecommunications landscape.
Drivers of Consumer Expectations
The drivers of the NCC 2017 Year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer are the 2442 Do-Not-Disturb Service Code, the 622 toll free complaints line, Quality of Service, QoS and concerns about the electromagnetic field, EMF radiation. These are the areas the information provided in the course of the campaign would focus on.
Dare noted that “For the Nigerian telecom consumer and indeed the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), things have come almost full circle. They know each other and need each other. The NCC as a regular stands like an impartial umpire, a referee engaging and monitoring to ensure the interests of all parties are respected. From a customer base of slightly over 400,000 in the height of NITEL’s glory, we now have a combined subscriber base of over 150 million across the country.
“This boom and massive jump in mobile telephony have brought with it several challenges especially in terms of reliable service, network upgrade, expansion and maintenance, and increasing demand for capital expenditure (capex) injection into the telecom industry.
“Continuous monitoring of Key Performance Indicators, KPIs, and benchmark is ongoing too on a quarterly basis to ensure that the quality of service does not deteriorate. On a continuous basis, NCC will seek to engage and explore ways to make consumer experience more satisfying within the Nigerian telecoms industry,” Dare said.