How service quality can improve: NCC
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says quality of service (QoS) will continue to remain an issue in the telecoms sector if telecoms subscribers continue to rely entirely on microwave. The regulator also assured that the issues surrounding the operating environment which has been a challenge is gradually being tackled, assuring that subscribers will get value for their money as the regulator will not rest on its oars.
NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo who spoke at the NCC Day during the just concluded Lagos International Trade Fair organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said the Commission is encouraging the operators to keep expanding capacity on their network.
He said the problem of QoS stems from the fact that there is too much traffic on telecoms networks in the country due to the dearth of fixed lines.
However, he said in spite of the challenges, the sector has done well as no other sector has the capacity to do what it has done.
According to Ojobo, in developed countries, mobile phones are only used during mobility, adding that the situation is different in Nigeria where mobile is everything from offices to kitchen, to market and to homes.
He said 98 per cent of telecoms services in the country run on mobile, which includes satellite, arguing that satellite technology has proven not to be resilient when there is rainfall.
Ojobo said the issue of unsolicited messages too is not limited to Nigeria most of the messages are messages generated from the internet by foreigners who dump them on the network of the mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country.
According to him, the apparent lack of adequate fixed infrastructures in the country has further complicated the matter, as operators also face challenges such as vandalism, Right of Way, delays in granting approval for infrastructure rollout by government regulatory agencies, both at federal and state levels.
“In Nigeria today, there is a lot of pressure on the mobile networks. For instance, 98 per cent services being provided are resting on the mobile networks. In developed countries, there are adequate fixed infrastructures, they only use mobile services while they are on the move and use fixed line while at home, offices and other fixed places.
“This, however, is not the case in Nigeria where whether at homes, offices, kitchens, toilets and anywhere, subscribers use mobile services, thereby putting great pressures on the mobile operators.”
He said as at 2001, when the telecoms sector was liberalised, only about 450,000 connected lines were in the country for a population 100 million.
“But today, we are talking of over 132 million connected lines in 13 years on the mobile networks, which are also facing a number of operating challenges. What we are saying here is that what has happened in the industry is phenomenal. Within a very short time of 13 years, we have connected millions of subscribers.”
He said the operators, in spite of the challenges they are facing, have been challenged to expand their networks, saying even in a bid for the operators to do this, there are still facing challenges to their infrastructure expansion drive.
“Sometimes, an application by an operator to build a base station can take up to 24 months before it is granted approval by state government agents,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NCC boss has said that the Commission was not unaware of the various challenges regarding quality of service issue and unsolicited or spam short messaging service (SMS) being faced by telecoms consumers.
He said: “The regulator is developing guidelines for the operations of those that are called content providers; people that provide contents and push them to telecom consumers. We also recently had a meeting with Value Added Service (VAS) operators, where the issue of spam text message was discussed exhaustively.
“Nigeria is not the only country affected by unsolicited SMS. It is something countries around the world are contending with. What we have found out is that because in Internet is not regulated, a lot of spam text messages emanate from other countries into our territory just as you get spam emails also from the internet inside your email box. But for those emanating from the networks, we are working on minimising it.”
According to him the Commission had thus asked the operators to continue to monitor all the messages passing through their networks and build firewalls on their network to filter unsolicited SMS.
“There will be sanctions for content providers and networks that breach the guidelines that we are developing on the issue of VAS provision and unsolicited SMS.
“Telecoms does not operate in isolation, as the sector is also part of the economic ecosystem and as such, the sector is also affected by various factors that affect other businesses, such as power issue.
“But we hope that going forwards, with the transformation going on in the economy regarding power sector, telecoms, whose operation relies largely on power, will also benefit from the issue.”