By Prince Osuagwu
Telecommunications operators yesterday said they were disappointed with the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC over the manner it suspended the increment notice on data services less than 24 hours before deadline.
The telcos said the commission painted a picture of people who did not do their home work before making pronouncements whereas the contrary was the case.
The operators, who spoke through their umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, said NCC realised that data prices needed to be set at realistic levels to ensure that operators are able to provide first-rate quality of service to their subscribers but regretted that it did that through the data tariff floor but unfortunately suspended it before implementation deadline.
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC has applauded the Federal Government, upper chamber and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for being sensitive to the yearnings of subscribers, who had decried initial plan to abysmally increase data rate even at a time the economy is sick.
President, TUC, Comrade Bobboi Bala Kaigama, in a statement, said: “While we commend the Federal Government, senate and NCC for staying the policy, we urge them to do more in other areas”
The suspended data tariff floor would have increased charges for data services offered by telecommunications operators, if NCC had allowed its implementation, which was supposed to take effect from December 1, 2016.
In a statement signed by ALTON Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, and its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Damian Udeh, the operators said: “While we fully understand the public sentiments that would appear to have greeted the announcement of a minimum data tariff being introduced by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), ALTON wishes to note that the NCC intervened to set the data tariff floor in exercise of its statutory responsibility to promote healthy competition by periodically reviewing voice and data tariffs in the industry and ensure the sustainability of the Nigerian telecommunications industry.
“It is also noteworthy to mention that the NCC commenced extensive consultation with the industry prior to the finalization of the data tariff floor, which it has suspended its implementation”.
ALTON also noted that it is within the statutory remit of the NCC t to make decisive interventions to address the data price concerns which had led to falling prices to unreasonably low levels with the effect that operators were unable to recover the cost of providing data services necessary to reinvest to accommodate the increased usage arising from lower tariffs.
According to the operators, “the situation has been compounded by the recent economic challenges characterized by the steep depreciation of the naira, the need to resort to the parallel market and foreign exchange scarcity which have considerably increased the capital and operational cost of providing telecommunications services, thus making current data tariffs unsustainable.
“This situation, if left unaddressed, could result in a sustained deterioration in the quality of data services across all networks and the attendant poor quality of experience for users. In this regard, our members await the conclusion of NCC’s market study when the Commission will be in a position to determine its requisite intervention,
, “We are aware that the NCC introduced the minimum price for data services to help ensure cost recovery and drive the continued investment in the telecommunications sector necessary for the provision of world-class data services for the overall benefit of the Nigerian subscriber and the Nigerian economy. It is our belief that interventions such as these are in keeping with the NCC’s tradition of implementing customer-centric regulatory initiatives such as the Do-Not-Disturb Service and the Mobile Number Portability Scheme which were introduced to enhance customer satisfaction with telecommunications services.”
ALTON also notes that price changes for data services across all networks following any intervention by the NCC are not expected to have a detrimental effect on broadband penetration contrary to some sentiments being expressed in the media.
Announcing the suspension plan, Wednesday, NCC had said that: “The Commission has weighed all of these and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.”
Before the new but suspended price floor of N0.90k/MB, the industry average for dominant operators including MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, EMTS Limited (Etisalat) and Airtel Nigeria Limited was N0.53k/MB.
Etisalat offered (N0.94k/MB), Airtel (N0.52k/MB), MTN (N0.45k/MB) and Globacom (N0.21k/MB).
But the smaller operators/new entrants like Smile Communications, Spectranet, and ntel, charged different rates. Smile Communications charged N0.84k/MB, Spectranet charged N0.58k/MB and ntel charged N0.72k/MB.
MTN had on Monday, announced fresh plans to increase data tariffs, but following the complaints from subscribers, NCC decided to suspend any further action in that direction.