The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has just banned all manner of promotions and lotteries by some telecommunications network operators in response to multifarious complaints by consumers of their services who allege different shades of rip-offs. Precedent to this, the NCC had, not too long ago, slammed a N1.17 billion fine on these firms for their poor quality of service.
Most times, subscribers to GSM companies are left helpless because of the tepidity of the NCC in addressing the gargantuan nonchalance of the GSM outfits towards shortfalls in service provision. Despite the regular consumer parliamentary sessions instituted by the NCC, nothing much has changed in terms of the shortcomings of telecoms companies. In fact, the widespread feeling by most consumers is that the NCC is not on top of regulation which is its exclusive function.
This is not the first time that the NCC will clamp down on GSM companies over one promotional indulgence or another in the form of lotteries, mouth-watering bonuses, free air-time, customised handsets based on volume of patronage, and other gift items all tantalisingly packaged to sway the public. What happens is that soon after such lily-livered NCC interventions, the GSM firms return to their game in fresh disguises!
We hope that this time round the NCC would be taken seriously by all stakeholders in its effort to bring sanity to the operations of GSM companies and ultimately the quality of service they offer to their clientele. The NCC has the onerous responsibility to ensure that consumers of the services of these entrepreneurs are not hoodwinked or short-changed in any way.
Once that threshold is attained, as obtains globally, then Nigeria would have truly become a continental leader in this sphere. For reasons best known to the GSM companies, the competitive spirit here is grossly unproductive as they independently pursue their businesses even in areas that call for a pooling of resources and the enthronement of economies of scale.
There should be cost reduction, for instance, if they collaborate such that in a particular area power could be generated collectively with one big generator serving all of them instead of the current ragtag approach which is not cost effective, apart from other logistical initiatives like chaotic deployment of masts.
This uncooperative attitude is a clear and present danger to the telephony business here. In other civilized climes, some measure of infrastructural integration takes place. Optimal service delivery cannot depend on promotions and lotteries. Last December, the NCC set a 98 per cent call completion rate for GSM operators.
This means that for every hundred calls made to all GSM networks, the commission wants 98 per cent of them to go through and be successfully completed. This also gave rise to a new threshold of quality of service key performance indicators. It is equally expected that this development will foreclose the occasional service outages that have come to characterize telephony in the country.
This latest charter by NCC is an addition to present challenges like call setup success rate, traffic channel congestion, call drop rate, stand-alone dedicated control channel, paging success rate, poor reception, error in connection and the ubiquity of scandalous inter-connectivity regime. This is hoping that the operators will be able to handle these and other compliance demands on them.
But, the astonishing thing is that these firms, despite their poor services, still make huge profits at the end of every year (heavy taxation and have an enviable record of being the managers of the third largest subscriber base in the world. Most subscribers believe—rightly or wrongly—that the GSM companies are fraudulent, insincere, exploitative, insensitive and uncaring. And for any institution, this perception could be worrisome and equally detrimental. We expect that sanity would be restored to this sector by the NCC soonest.