Eugene Juwah, NCC Executive vice chairman and CEO, addresses the media

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria's telecoms sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has announced that a combined registration of 110, 433, 976 subscriber identity modules (SIMs) have so far been registered in the ongoing SIM registration exercise that began at the twilight of the first quarter of last year.

The Executive vice chairman and CEO of the NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah, who disclosed this in Abuja, Nigeria's political capital, said the figures were garnered from the operators and those of the agents commissioned by the NCC to do the job.

He said when he had come into office, there had been a long list of matters requiring urgent attention in order to improve the industry for operators and subscribers.

To this effect, he recalled that he articulated six focus areas that could spearhead urgent intervention in the industry. Dr Juwah listed them as: (1) Consolidation and Integration of Mobile Wireless Services including Quality of Service; (2) Fixed Line and Broadband Deployment for National Development; (3) Enhanced Competitive Market and Choice for the Consumer; (4) Vigorous Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement of Regulations and Directives; (5) National Connectivity for Accelerated Growth; and (6) Enhanced International Relations.

He said a primary move towards realising this policy direction was the SIM Card Registration, adding that the exercise began on March 28, 2011.

“The process of budget approval was quite long and controversial, and there were doubts about the feasibility of the project. I am happy to announce that the SIM Card Registration project will soon come to an end.

As we speak we have a combined registration of 110, 433, 976 SIM cards that have been registered and the data is going through processing and cleaning at the NCC. The registration was variously carried out by the NCC contractors and the network operators. We are shortly going to commence verification of the SIMs before a number can be said to be duly registered.

“With the country’s telephone penetration standing at 95, 886, 714 lines, there is already clear evidence of multiple registration. These would be eliminated to create a database of integrity and credibility. As the exercise comes to a close, subscribers whose SIM Cards are not registered will be deemed not to be interested in the process or that the SIMs have been abandoned, and will be disconnected,” the EVC said.

According to him, the exercise, apart from helping to enhance security in the country, it will facilitate the collation of data by the Commission of phone users in the country, and enable operators have predictable profiles about the users in their networks; the SIM Card registration exercise will also enable the Commission to effectively implement other value added services like Mobile Number Portability (MNP), which from current schedule shall commence in the last quarter of the year.

He said contract for MNP has been awarded. “MNP will broaden the choice available to subscribers and on its own impose a code of behaviour on the operators who will want to provide top notch services in order to retain their subscribers. The success of MNP also rides on successful registration of SIM Cards and creation of SIM Card data base of integrity. As I have already told you, we are doing that at the moment,” Juwah said.

He said MNP would impact on the quality of service on our various networks although other cardinal steps are being taken to ensure that our service providers are constantly kept on their toes to make them give the best services to their subscribers.

“To this end, the Compliance and Enforcement Unit has been strengthened to enable the Commission enforce its regulations and directives. Recently the unit embarked on a lot of enforcement activities; you must be aware of such activities all over the country. It was a painful action to take but we realise that if we have to confront some key problems facing the industry like quality of service, some organisations and individuals must be pulled into line, which process would invariably cause some discomfort and corporate embarrassment, not to mention financial loss.”

“Only last Friday, 17th February 2012, the Commission’s Enforcement Unit carried out enforcement actions against some mobile device dealers who flood our markets with non type approved devices, which in turn affect quality of service of the various networks,” Juwah said.

“We have laid out comprehensive plans to further excite the communications sector. We have broad plans for Broadband deployment to enable us create and impact in the whole nation. To implement this we have adopted the open access model as platform; we are also looking at resuscitating the fixed line sector by giving out new licenses and in doing this, increase telephony penetration. The success of this twin action will give Nigerians an enhanced choice of products and services, reduce overreliance on mobile services and encourage internet usage,” he said.

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