By Prince Osuagwu
Despite the clamp down on telecom promos by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), November 8, 2012, quality of service of the network operators are still far from what it should be.
As a result, quite a number of subscribers and industry stakeholders had been reflecting on the import of the decision. Clearly, NCC acted in good spirit in the face of the huge complaints by subscribers across all networks who were experiencing difficulties in completing their calls or assessing data platforms without stress.
While announcing the blanket ban, NCC’s Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo had explained: “The commission carefully evaluated the complaints received especially against the backdrop of sustaining the integrity of the networks, the general interest of the consumers, the socio-economic impact of the promotions on operators and other relevant stakeholders, before concluding on the ban.”
Ojobo explained that the ban would affect all proposed and approved promotions and lotteries on which the commission had given approval further to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) entered into with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC). He said the ban remains in force until such a time as may be determined by the commission.
However, the implication of the ban is beginning to hit home. The subscribers, for instance are already expressing concern that they are now been denied the freebies and discounts offered by the network operators, while the quality of service has not improved despite the absence of promotions and lotteries on those platforms.
Absence of promotions
According to Mrs Ebele Nwachukwu, a marketing communications consultant based in Lagos, NCC should have made the spirited effort to assess the network operators individually and determine their capability to handle consumer promotions. “It is in the spirit of liberalisation to promote healthy competition. We cannot be asking for foreign or local investors are yet be introducing policies that would stifle the business growth and fairness,” she said.
Indeed, the arguments for economic liberalisation include greater efficiency and effectiveness that would translate to a “bigger pie” for everybody. Thus, liberalisation in short refers to “the removal of controls”, to encourage economic development.
Nigeria has always clamoured for foreign investors. But analysts say it is one thing to seek foreign investors, it is another to encourage them to invest more in an economy.
Periodically, NCC conducts checks on the quality of service by the network operators as part of its regulatory functions. Airtel, for instance, was rated the best operator for good quality of service based on the NCC’s Audit Report for March and April 2012, despite the troubles it had experienced since it started operation in Nigeria at the commencement of the GSM revolution 11 years ago.
In addition to that, NCC also embarked on the first of its kind – a Nationwide Benchmark Drive Test – between July and September this year, which falls within the period the consumer promotions were heavy on the various networks. That survey concentrated on Call Completion Rate, which encompasses the major network KPI (call drop and congestion), involving MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat. The service providers were ranked in Lagos and the six geo-political zones of southwest, southeast, south south, north central, northeast and northwest.
According to the Drive Test report, Airtel again ranked No 1 in the three regions of south south (88 per cent), southwest (88 per cent) and northeast (78 per cent). In the other regions, Airtel came second – Lagos (88 per cent), north central (92 per cent), northwest (82 per cent) and southeast (75 per cent).
Etisalat, the latest GSM operator with a four-year experience in the Nigerian market, which had been rated best telecommunications service provider for good quality of service by the NCC based on the Quality of Service Key Performance Indicator audit report released in February 2012.
In the Benchmark Drive Test, Etisalat came second behind Airtel in south south having recorded 86 per cent, southwest (82 per cent) and northeast (67 per cent). It also recorded first position in the other regions – north central (94 per cent), Lagos (92 per cent), northwest (90 per cent) and southeast (85 per cent) – with Airtel coming second in each of these areas.
On its part, MTN finished third in north central (74 per cent), south south (71 per cent), and northeast (58 per cent); and fourth in the other zones – Lagos (72 per cent), southwest (72 per cent), northwest (59 per cent) and southeast (53 per cent).
According to the report, Glo came third in Lagos (88 per cent), southwest (79 per cent), northwest (78 per cent) and southeast (59 per cent) and fourth in north central (78 per cent), south south (78 per cent) and northeast (53 per cent).
In order to promote the spirit of competition, which will in the end promote customer satisfaction, a section of GSM subscribers and consumer rights activists believe that NCC should have applied its own reports in coming to the rescue of the consumers given the network congestion that led to the ban.
Mr Atilola Olanipekun, a financial analyst, said that the blanket ban would bring about huge challenges in the business environment and even for the consumer who the NCC seeks to protect. According to him, healthy rivalry and competition foster customer satisfaction.
The NCC ban may be sending the unintended signals to potential investors in the sector – that the agency can undo their marketing plans and their business goals in the long term as sales drive sustain revenue, from which these investors pay huge taxes and fees to all levels of governments.
For telecoms operators, under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the recent network congestion should not be blamed on consumer promotions and lotteries on the networks. According to the ALTON Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, network congestion should be blamed natural and man-made disasters. According to him, the major cause of poor quality of service across networks should be blamed on natural and man-made disasters, rather than on promotions and lotteries.
He added that the unprecedented flood in some parts of the country destroyed Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) along its path, leading to significant service disruption in the affected areas, with consequential impact on service availability in some other parts that were not affected by the flood. “Other than disruption to services, our members have lost equipment worth several billions of Naira to the flood disaster across the country, as over additional 300 BTS sites were affected by the flood.”