By DURO ADESEKO
The Director, Public Affairs of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Tony Ojobo, has disclosed that the much talked about Mobile Number Portability (MNP) will take-off today, after its formal launch by the commission. He made the disclosure when he paid a visit to the corporate headquarters of The Sun last weekend. Ojobo spoke on plans by NCC to ensure improvement in services rendered to telecom consumers across the country.
What is MNP?
It is a kind of service that will enable Nigerian telecom consumers to switch to service providers without necessarily losing their numbers. In other words, it is a number for life. You have your number and you can determine the network of choice. If you are dissatisfied with the service provider or maybe you are not satisfied with the tariff or the services or the way they attend to you or all of that, this gives you the opportunity to take a walk away from your service provider to a new service provider with your number. What that does is to put power in the hands of the consumer in the sense that the consumer now becomes the king. You have the power to determine who serves you.
Benefit to consumer
You will now be able to get better services and better attention from the service provider. We had complaints from consumers that when they call customer care line, they keep them on hold for a long time, playing advert and all of that. People don’t have the patience to wait for such things.
What we see happening with the introduction of MNP is that people will have the right of choice. As a result of the competition that is going to be engendered in the telecom space, what we envisage will happen with the launch of the MNP is that we are going to see a deepening of competition in the sense that, even as we speak, there is already a stiff competition. Someone called to tell me that one of the networks he called yesterday, and he was asked if he was satisfied with the quality of the network. The person said I am not satisfied because as soon as the MNP starts I am going to migrate from you to another network. And they told him no, they don’t want him to migrate and asked what the problem was. She was not satisfied with the tariff plan in terms of international calls. They said they had so and so plans. At the end, the person was able to get a good bargain from that network. So, that is just an example of what is going to happen. Before now, no network will call to ask you whether you are satisfied with the kind of service you are getting. So, it is an indication of what is coming.
We are also going to see real segmentation of market. Networks are probably going to identify some particular Nigerians and begin to provide services to some segment of the market. They provide corporate services. They may say we can provide services to your organization and to your staff. We are going to see some kind of innovation. There will be a bit more of creativity on the part of networks. Competitions challenge you to think. There is a situation in which the consumer does not have choice. They just sit idly by because they know that come rain, come sunshine, they are going to need your services. You are not really motivated to look for creative ways to retain them.
New face of competition
What this is going to do is that competition would be different; customer services will improve because people would be sensitive to how they are approached by their network. You are also going to see new service offerings. All kinds of innovative services will begin to come into the market space. We envisage that the quality of service will improve. Why am I saying so, I am saying so because in the Telecom industry, especially in the area of revenue generation, it is actually a game of number. Now, the more subscriber base you have, the more likelihood that you have higher volumes of traffic and the more likelihood you have more subscribers. So, there is a correlation between subscriber base, volume of traffic and the revenue. So, if you have a situation in a network, you have dissatisfied customers, when they migrate, it will affect you because you are going to have reduced volume of traffic which will also impact on your network. For some networks, they probably will see increase in subscriber base, increase in the volume of traffic and it will reflect in the revenue they will generate. All of those will make these networks put up their thinking hat and begin to look for ways that they can keep their customers.
We are not oblivious of the existing challenges. We are not also pretending that the quality of service should be what it should be. Last year, you will recall that the quality of service regulation gave us the voice of law. Sanction for breach was a bit more pungent. Before now you have networks paying N5 million for a network. It is not really a big deal as such. But now you have sanction based on key performance indicators. We have seven indicators. But there are just five where we take our readings. Things like core set of success rate (SCSSR), things like Dedicated channel, Traffic Congestion channel, Drop rate and all of that. These are the parameters that we have. So when we take measurement from the equipment of the service provider, it will give an indication of what has happened in the network in terms drop calls, in terms of set up rate, congestion in the network and all of that. You know it is congestion that makes them say the number you are calling cannot be reached.
What we expect is that networks should dimension their equipment to be able to take up additional traffic and subscribers. Many ask that if you allow them to take up additional subscribers and their quality of service is poor. Why don’t you stop them from taking additional subscribers until they have improved their networks?
It is an option that has its good side and also the bad side in the sense that in a liberalized market, in a free market, you have freedom of entry and freedom of exit. Once you begin to regulate entries and exits, you are tampering with the market as it were. Market is no longer as free as it should be. Of course, there are countries where they have attempted to do that and that in itself, you are also cutting certain individuals from having access to services. What you need is a smart regulation that tries to balance all of the issues in the market place. Also a regulation that takes into accounts the level of competition in that particular market.
These are the things we see happening. We see responsiveness on the part of the networks. We are also going to see pro activities on the part of networks. Network should be able to anticipate the kid of pressure that will go on the network so that we don’t have a situation in which you will be running a promo and you will begin to create problems.
Quality of service
On quality of service, we have said to the service providers that they should dimension their network in such a way that the additional traffic that would be generated or maybe additional subscriber intake because some of these promos make people to buy sim cards. It is not because they want the service. It is like kalo kalo now that people want to play. What you see is that it is congesting the network. We have a particular network that said people should buy sim card for
N500.00 and must finish the same day. Whether the person has some important calls to make or not, but because he has to finish it because the next day he can’t use it, he must be making the calls. So, all of that congest the network.
But as December last year, after the fine they paid the fine in July last year, and they said look, these fines can’t be every month otherwise they won’t have resources to take care of the network and to expand our activities. They asked for six months and take another measure. That is what we did.