Tony Ojobo

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced a reduction in interconnection rates for voice calls in the country. Under the new dispensation, it was reduced from current symmetric rate of N8.20k to N6.40k, N5.20k and N3.90k respectively.

The regulator explained that the decision to reduce the interconnection rate was taken after wide consultations with the all the stakeholders in the telecoms sector.

“After comprehensive consultations with various stakeholders the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has released a new set of interconnection rates determination for voice services for the country’s telecommunications industry, commencing April 1, 2013. The new determination rates which significantly reviewed prices downwards are informed by the depth of competition in the industry while taking into consideration the position of new entrants and small operators,” NCC explained in a statement endorsed by Tony Ojobo, Director Public Affairs.

According to him, the termination rates for voice services provided by new entrants (defined as newly licensed operator entering an existing or new market within 0 to 3 years) and small operators (defined as an existing operator with a market share of 0 – 7.5 per cent in terms of subscriber base in Nigeria irrespective of the originating network shall be: N6.40 from 1st April, 2013; N5.20 from 1st April 2014; and N3. 90 from 1st April, 2015 respectively.

According to the NCC, the termination rates for voice services provided by other operators in Nigeria irrespective of the originating network shall be: N4.90k from 1st of April, 2013; N4.40k from 1st of April, 2014; and N3.90k from 1st of April 2015 respectively.

This determination shall take effect from 1st of April 2013, and remain valid and binding on licensees for the next three years until further reviewed by the Commission.

Subscribers have hailed the new interconnection rate but want the regulator to also put a price cap on how much operators can charge for voice calls as this cannot be left to the discretion of the operators.

Deolu Ogunbanjo, president of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) said it is good the NCC has finally heeded the call of the subscribers. “We welcome the development. But the NCC should put a cap of N15 on per minute call across the networks. Like it did with the SMS when it imposed a N4 price cap on all off-net SMS, it should do same with voice calls as it should not be left to the operators who will say it should be left to market forces,” he said.

While all efforts to get the reaction of the operators failed as Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON) said he was in the middle of a meeting and could not speak, Ojobo recalled that the current interconnection rate regulation was implemented through the NCC’s Interconnection Rate Determination issued on 21st December, 2009, adding that since then, the Nigerian market had seen tremendous growth in both, subscriber numbers as well as traffic volumes and available technologies such as 3G.

In June 2012, the Commission appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to undertake a cost study for voice interconnection.

In line with its commitment to a policy of openness, transparency, fairness, and participatory regulation, the Commission informed stakeholders in July 2012 of its engagement of PWC to advise on the review of interconnection rates for mobile and fixed telephony services.

After series of meetings with operators and other stakeholders, PWC provided the Commission with recommendations related to the regulation of voice interconnection.

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