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Monday 21 May 2012

Telecoms Operators Lobby NCC Over N1.17 Billion Service Quality Fines,

 Top managers of the four sanctioned telecoms operators met with officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last Friday to lobby the regulator over the N1.17 billion fines imposed on them for rendering poor quality service to subscribers in the months of March and April, Daily Trust learnt at the weekend.

The telecoms sector regulator had on May 11 ordered MTN Nigeria and Etisalat Nigeria to pay N360 million fines.

It also said Airtel Nigeria should pay N270 million while Globacom, Nigeria's second national operator was ordered to pay N180 million.

The mobile phone companies were also ordered to pay their respective fines not later than May 25 or risk a fresh round of punitive fines pegged at N2.5 million per day if they default in meeting Friday's payment deadline.

Daily Trust learnt at the weekend that the operators met at the NCC corporate headquarters in Abuja last Friday "to plead with NCC to drop the fines against them and also discuss with the NCC boss the grave implications of going ahead to implement the fines against them."

But an NCC source who told Daily Trust about the meeting, said the "Executive Vice Chairman of NCC is not likely to give in to the pressures from the telecom operators executives."

The source who pleaded not to be named, said NCC's EVC would not drop the fines "because the Senate is on his neck and has ordered NCC to ensure that operators pay the fines."

But Reuben Mouka, the NCC spokesman denied that any meeting took place between NCC officials and the telecoms operators with a view to dropping the charges against them.

In a telephone interview with our reporter yesterday, Mouka said, "who told you that there was a meeting? Let me tell you, as far as we are concerned, there was no meeting between us and the operators over the N1.17 billion fines."

MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel Nigeria, said in a joint press statement on Friday that, "fines will not bring about the desired service quality improvements or offer a lasting solution but will merely deplete essential resources that would otherwise be deployed for network roll out."

The operators called on the government and telecoms administration in Nigeria to work in harmony towards continued promotion of investment in the telecoms sector.

"We wish to use this medium to call on the NCC, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, the Minister of Communication, the National Assembly and the Office of the National Security Adviser to work in harmony to put in place an environment in which we can continue our substantial investments in pursuit of delivering world class telecommunication networks", the four companies said in the joint statement.

The four companies said that they have invested over N1 trillion within the last decade in building and enhancing their networks and plan a further N400 billion in 2012 alone on further network spending.

"We are all equally frustrated and concerned about the failures to meet customer expectations and needs with respect to the quality of service. Nigeria deserves and needs first class telecommunications networks. We thus apologize unreservedly to you, our customers, for those occasions when you have been disappointed or inconvenienced by a lapse or failure to deliver the requisite level of quality of service. We, however, believe that it is necessary to explain the major challenges we face as operators and ask for your understanding and support", they said.

They also noted that frequent fibre cuts linking the cell sites which are "frequently malicious in nature" is another key impediment to optimal quality of mobile telephony services.

Due to this, "operators have asked that telecommunications infrastructure be declared 'critical national infrastructure' which would result in enhanced protection for these assets and criminalize the wilful damage of same."

The quartet also added that multiple taxation by federal MDAs, state and local governments have lately promoted a recent trend towards closure of sites by these government institutions.

According to the companies, "the issue of security is a prevalent threat from our operating environment. We have had particularly unfortunate instances where our employees have been physically assaulted and in some instances killed during site maintenance visits, all in a quest to sustain service quality."

The companies underscore that while they continue to deepen investments to improve service quality, "it needs to be pointed out that in the telecommunications industry, such investments do not yield the requite improvement in service quality until well after 12 months."

The sanctioned GSM networks said that they "are also concerned that it could create an atmosphere of anxiety and regulatory uncertainty which is unattractive to investment" while adding that, "we are therefore actively engaging with our Regulator to resolve this issue."

According to them, "solutions being explored include ensuring a forward-looking quality of service framework, taking into account pertinent environmental factors affecting service delivery and preserving the capacity of the industry to attract the requisite level of investment in infrastructure to meet stakeholders' expectations."

According to NCC April 2012 Audit Report, MTN, Etisalat and Airtel failed to meet the commission's target during the months of March and April this year when the regulator undertook the review while, "Glo recorded value cannot be validated in view of earlier comments above."

According to the report, "general performance by the operators was poor on this KPI (key performance indicators) in the period under review. Etisalat recorded the worst performance when compared with others and commission's minimum threshold in the period under review."

In separate letters notifying the four affected GSM operators of the sanctions and jointly signed on behalf of the EVC by Head, Compliance Monitoring & Enforcement, U. A. S. Maska and Director, Legal & Regulatory Services, Josephine Amuwa, the regulator said they were penalized for failure to meet the Network Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in the months of March and April, 2012.

NCC said it monitored quality of service standards for the two months that revealed varying degrees of failure by the Big Four "to meet the minimum standard of quality of service including the key performance Indicators (KPI's) as specified in Schedule 1 Table 2 of the Quality of Service Regulations 2012."

According to NCC, "whereas the commission had noted the performances in the months of January and February 2012 as being below the specified thresholds however, for the purpose of enforcement of the new Quality of Service Regulations, the commission had taken these periods as grace period"

Last year, NCC said it waived its threat to sanction the three biggest telecoms networks, MTN Nigeria, Globacom and Airtel, over service quality issues following the outcome of a network audit that revealed varying levels of improvement by the affected service providers.

Raj Rajput  [  MBA ] 
Mobile Reviews Expert 

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