The Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC] will introduce sanctions against telecommunications companies operating in the country if they continuously fail to improve their service quality, the regulatory body said in Lagos Tuesday.
Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC told journalists in a media interaction that the commission was moving regulatory actions to the next level in order to ensure that telecomm companies complied with the set service quality standard for the industry.
NCC had engaged telecom service providers in the last quarter of 2016 on the deterioration of quality of their services to the public and required them to improve. Some improvements have been made so far, according to Danbatta yet the average industry performance is nowhere close to the stipulated regulatory standard.
The commission plans to meet with the operators soon to review the state of their compliance as at the end of the first quarter of this year and sanctions will apply where the usual engagement strategy and other forms of persuasion fail, Danbatta said.
On the falling tele-density and internet penetration in Nigeria in recent times, the NCC’s boss explained that this is a reflection of consumers getting wiser and exploiting cheaper service options. He said there is a growing shift by consumers from voice and SMS to comparatively cheap data and cheaper calls as data services continue to expand.
He said the development is responsible for a widening gap between registered telephone subscribers in Nigeria estimated at 200 million and the number of active telephone lines estimated at 150 million. The reason is that tariff for data is cheaper than voice/SMS, Danbatta explained. It is a consumer driven trend and it is affecting revenues of voice/SMS operators as well as internet service providers, he said.
The trend is expected to continue especially as the state of the economy has warranted cost conscious behaviour by consumers generally. Danbatta expects that an improvement of the economy will be needed to effectively establish the driving force of the changing consumer behaviour.
The NCC boss also disclosed the efforts of the commission in assisting ICT operators to scale through the difficulties of obtaining foreign exchange to sustain their operations. He said the commission has secured a foreign exchange priority window for ICT operators of which some of them have already benefitted from the window. He is nevertheless pressing on the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase the volume of foreign exchange available to the operators through the priority window.