Nigerian Communications Commission threatens to apply its big stick on telecommunications operators who flout its guidelines in mobile number portability
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec. 23, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
EIGHT months after the launch of Mobile Number Portability, MNP, by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, many Nigerians are still finding it difficult to port from one network to another. Investigations by s Realnews have revealed that apart from poor education on how the process works, the service providers are frustrating subscribers from porting to other networks.
Realnews learnt that since the MNP allows telecoms subscribers to leave their current service providers for another preferred network on the basis of improved service on the latter, some operators often frustrate the process of subscribers leaving their networks. As a result of the ongoing development, the NCC has expressed strong reservation on the ugly trend, saying it would soon clamp down heavily on the erring operators.
Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, NCC, said at the Telecoms Executive and Regulator’s Forum organised by the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria in Lagos, that the regulator would apply necessary sanctions for contraventions of porting rules. He lamented that, while there are businesses rules on porting services with which operators are to comply, the regulator has noticed, with dismay, that cases of contravention were paramount among the operators.
The NCC boss, therefore, warned the operators to desist from anti-competitive practices lest the regulator wield the big stick on erring operators. “For MNP, there is what we call ‘Business Rules’. These rules are produced not solely by the NCC; but also in conjunction with other stakeholders in the industry including the operators themselves and the application of the rules was jointly approved. But to our dismay, we have observed that some operators don’t want to obey the rules of MNP. But, there are clear evidences that some operators are preventing subscribers from porting from their networks to other networks. MNP is something that was requested by the subscribers and also supported by the regulator. My advice is that concerned operators should start obeying the rules of the MNP game because if they continue disobeying the business rules, we would apply sanctions and very soon, we would come down heavily on the erring operators by a way of regulator intervention.
“We are watching you the operators and we are aware that some of you are deliberately breaking the rules of MNP, and making it difficult for subscribers to port. Some have refused to allow high value customers to port from their networks, even after the customers have indicated interest to port. Some operators have also denied subscribers the right to port, giving reasons that the subscribers are owing the network. This is wrong and must be stopped henceforth,” he said.
According to Juwah, “it would be wrong of any operator to deny subscribers of their rights to port, even if the subscribers have some outstanding debts to clear. We will sanction any operator found violating the rules and when this is done, such operator will sit up. We did not impose MNP on operators. It was an agreement reached between the operators and the regulator, and they must abide by the rules governing the scheme.”
In his reaction, Deolu Ogunbanjo, president, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, NATCOMS, chided the operators for engaging in activities that tantamount to a breach of porting rule. “What we need is for NCC to do adequate policing and monitoring of the exercise and apply necessary sanctions as may be deemed fit on disobedient operators,” he said.
Ogunbanjo said a situation where a subscriber was being prevented by his operators from moving to another network was tantamount of infringement on such a subscriber’s consumer right. “By not complying with rule of porting games as established by the regulator, it means the GSM operators are beckoning at another heavy sanction from the NCC. But my candid advice to them is that they should abide by the porting guidelines rather than frustrating the scheme.”
Maria Svensson, director of customer, Globacom, who confirmed NCC’s observation, said she was aware that some operators were breaking the rules of porting. She urged the NCC to step into the matter through regulatory intervention. “The regulator’s intervention is imperative because all of us operate in the same circumstance as no operator should be allowed to take advantage of others. We need a level-playing ground,” she said.
Meanwhile, telecom operators said there were some limitations that prevent subscribers from taking up MNP which the NCC is ignoring. They insist that the limitations were hindering the fast adoption of the scheme since it was launched. Ibrahim Dikko, director, legal and regulatory affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, was of the view that strong awareness campaign in sensitising subscribers on the need to participate in number porting, remained the key to the success of the scheme, but expressed worries that the NCC was not doing sufficient publicity to that effect.
Wale Goodluck, executive director, corporate services, MTN Nigeria, blamed the slow pace of MNP on multiplicity of SIM cards. According to him, original equipment manufacturers like TECNO, has slots for more than one SIM in all its android phones, and this is discouraging subscribers from porting, since one single phone could accommodate three SIM cards from different networks. “If a subscriber has three different networks on a single phone, such subscriber will not be interested in porting any line,” he said.
The NCC flagged off the MNP service nationwide in May with the intention of deepening competition in the industry. With the MNP, telecom consumers would no longer need to acquire new SIM cards to move from one network to another, as subscribers will simply take their existing numbers along with them to any network of their choice. The scheme is meant to create freedom of choice at the same time keeping telecoms operators on their toes as each of them strives to improve its service quality with the view to making its network the preferred one to port to by subscribers while retaining its existing subscribers.