Four sanctioned GSM networks want the regulator to review phone service quality rules as part of negotiations on contentious N1.17b fines promised to be paid this week, reports Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. June 17, 2012. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may agree to a key demand by four GSM operators to review of service quality benchmarks in what may have paved the way for their decision to shift their ground to pay fines exceeding N1.17billion this week, unless there is a last-minute change of mind.
The regulator had slammed sanction on four operators: MTN Nigeria (N360m); Airtel Nigeria (N270m), Etisalat Nigeria (N360m) and Globacom (N180m) citing their failure to service quality benchmarks for mobile telephony services to subscribers in the country.
Meanwhile, the coalition of sanctioned operators decided to defy the May 25 deadline set by NCC for payment of the fine, a development that further makes them incur N2.5million in daily default penalty from May 26, this year.
They are citing the need to come to the roundtable with NCC and renegotiate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set by the telecoms regulator which will pose a tough hurdle for them to scale uniformly across their operations nationwide.
Technology Times learnt that the meeting was convened to a stave off a looming crisis after operators learnt of moves by NCC to obtain courts orders and progressively seal off the operations of the four affected companies, a move that would have started in Abuja and then expanded to Lagos.
At a closed-door meeting between the two parties at the Commission’s Corporate Headquarters in Abuja, a key deal being pushed by the quartet is to have the telecoms regulator review the KPIs such that data collected on their network performance will be varied by cities rather than using information collected to reflect their nationwide result.
According to the operators, rather than adopt a uniform data gathering method that is adopted as the nationwide service quality KPIs picture for operators, they are pushing to have this varied according to realities in cities across the country.
Under the current dispensation, the NCC rules sees “Reporting Area” as a geographic area for which measurements are taken and recorded and is often extended to reflect the overall nationwide network performance reality.
Also, NCC adopts a uniform benchmark across the country which operators reckon may permanently make them to be in continuous breach of regulatory service quality KPIs, a development that will see them pay constant sanctions to the regulator.
Mindful of this impending reality, that is why the sanctioned GSM quartet has been pushing for a review of the benchmark rules set forth in the NCC Quality of Service Regulations 2012, where NCC currently derives its power to monitor service quality among other operators’ performance, according to industry insiders who spoke anonymously.
Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Tony Ojobo told Technology Times in a phone interview on Sunday that the regulatory agency met with operators where, “they all made firm commitments to pay their fines this week”, a commitment the regulator believes they will keep faith with following promises they made to also deepen network improvement investments.”
While no deal has so far been reached by both parties on this key demand of KPI review, the meeting closed with the parties resolving that Engineers of the four companies meet with their counterparts in NCC, “to work out modalities for the review”, an indication that the regulator may accede to the demand of the mobile phone companies.
Ojobo confirmed this proposal from the operators and confirms that NCC Engineers are looking into the matter “but a decision has not be taken yet.”
According to him, both parties are hopeful that recent initiatives by government also bolster hope that collaborative efforts are underway towards sustainable improvement in telecoms network improvements in the country.
Ojobo adds that the Ministry of Communication Technology has unveiled a new guideline on Right of Way (RoW) on Federal Highways stipulating that henceforth applications for granting of RoWs will be treated and concluded within 30 days.
The guideline also mandate infrastructure sharing to reduce incidents of multiple digging up of roads which compromise the integrity of the roads under a broad strategy to address service quality issues.
Another is the new 13-week window of opportunity now open for obtaining Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which has been significantly improved from the previous regime of 18 months, which are all efforts that have been made as part of concessionary measures by government towards creating an enabling operating environment and complementing telecoms development in the country, the NCC image maker adds.
Following the official gazetting of the Regulations in January this year, the regulator says it now has the necessary powers and is swinging into action to stem the tide of flagging service quality among telecoms companies in the country.
The relevant provisions of the Regulations stipulate, “the minimum quality and standards of service, associated measurements, reporting and record keeping tasks” for telecoms services in the country.
NCC says the Regulations sets to ensure that interests of telecoms consumers are protected and promoted “against unfair practices including matters relating to tariffs and charges, the availability and quality of communications services, equipment and facilities.”
Among the several objectives of the Regulations include improving service quality, “by identifying service deficiencies and by encouraging, enforcing, effecting or requiring appropriate changes and solutions.”
It also seeks to maintain service quality, while recognizing environmental and operating conditions as well as “make available information that will help customers make an informed choice of services and service provider.”
The Regulations are also envisaged to improve the operation and performance of interconnected networks and assist the development of related telecoms markets in Nigeria.
Operators are now insisting on a review of regulations on service quality benchmarks as part of negotiation pushed by the four GSM networks slammed over poor service quality to their mobile telephony service customers.
People conversant with the situation say that the operators are mindful that the uniform benchmark will further complicate their ability to realize the lofty benchmarks set by NCC.
“The issue for the operators is not about the money and the cumulative daily penalty it has continued to attract but they realize that they will continue to pay sanctions unless that benchmark is reviewed”, a source conversant with details of the operators’ key demands from NCC told Technology Times anonymously.
During the meeting operators also committed to month-on-month improvements in their service quality citing their desire to further deepen investments in network upgrade and expansions.
They are also promising to explore hybrid technologies to mitigate the impact of power on seamless operation of their network infrastructure that affects eventual quality of telephony services delivered to subscribers in Nigeria.
The operators presented a blueprint of a roadmap for cumulative service quality improvement over the next three months whereby they will deepen investments in network expansion; use of hybrid technology to ensure constant availability of power to their network infrastructure, among other proposals to NCC.