NCC sanctions licensees

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has sanctioned some of its licensees over sharp practices.

The regulator said it had been inundated with complaints from service providers and consumers regarding the high incidence of call-masking, call-refiling and SIM-Boxing. This practice, it explained, involves disguising international calls as local calls in order to profit from price differentials between international and local calls.

Apart from the resultant loss of revenue by service providers, the practice some also has negative security implications.

The Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo, said following a painstaking investigation process which included collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Department of State Services (DSSS) the Commission has imposed a range of sanctions on licensees involved in the fraudulent practice. The sanctions are suspension of the Interconnect Clearinghouse License issued to Medallion Communications Limited for 90 days, in the first instance; issuance of a strong warning to Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria Limited; disconnection of Information Connectivity Solutions Limited (ICSL) and Solid Interconnectivity Services Limited from all networks, until they regularize their operations; issuance of letters to Exchange Telecoms Limited, NiconnX Limited and Breeze Micro Limited, cautioning them against engaging in the fraudulent practice; and barring of over 750,000 numbers assigned to several Private Network Links (PNL) and Local Exchange Operator (LEO) licensees, which number ranges were found to have been utilized for the practice.

Ojobo said the sanctioned entities were found to be directly and indirectly complicit in several infractions, including, covertly allowing organisations with expired licences to transit calls, failure to undertake due diligence on parties seeking to interconnect, deliberately turning a blind eye to masking infractions by interconnect partners, and using a licence issued to another organisation to bring-in and terminate international calls which were masked as local calls to other operators.

"Regarding the barring of numbers, over 750,000 individual numbers across the nation, made up of about 31 number ranges have been barred. The licensees whose numbers have been barred are: Vezeti Communications Services Limited, Voix Networks Limited, Mobitel Limited, Peace Global Satellite Communications Limited, ABG Communications Limited, Vodacom Business Africa (Nigeria) Limited, Swift Telephone Networks Limited, QVODA Telecoms Limited, Wireless Telecoms Limited and Emcatel Networks Limited. The Commission found that some of these were terminating millions of minutes, whereas they only have very few active customers,'" Ojobo said.

He noted that incidence of call masking has significantly reduced since the NCC commenced a multi-faceted approach to address the menace.

"The Commission hereby informs all stakeholders that the actions so far taken are just the first stage of the exercise. "The second stage which has now commenced, will focus on the Mobile Network Operators and other persons involved in SIM-Boxing," Ojobo said.

He said the aim of the Commission is to completely stamp out the fraudulent practice in the overall interest of all Nigerians. Accordingly, he said every service provider that has been sanctioned still has an opportunity to correct the identified anomalies and satisfy the Commission that it should be allowed to continue to operate in the country.

"The Commission reserves the right to revoke the licence of such service providers where they fail to take the necessary corrective measures," Ojobo warned.

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