NCC Begs CBN to Give Telcos Forex

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By Dipo Olowookere

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make forex available to telecommunications companies operating in the country.

Also, the agency said it is insisting on quality service from the firms.

The NCC said it is very worried by the degenerating Quality of Service (QoS) provided by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other service providers in the country.

According to the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, the agency has written to the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, as part of measures to cushion the situation and ameliorate the recurrent inaccessibility to foreign exchange by operators.

Prof Danbatta said the CBN boss was favourably disposed to addressing the forex needs of the operators.

Specifically, he said, as a follow up to the letter, the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholders Management) of the NCC, Mr Sunday Dare, had a meeting with Mr Emefiele and extracted a commitment from him on how he hoped to address the forex needs of the operators.

Mr Danbatta, speaking in Abuja during an interactive session on Quality of Service delivery which NCC management had with operators, stated that since the NCC had declared 2017 as the year of the consumer, all hands should be on deck for telecom consumers to have a fresh lease to high Quality of Service.

“The consumer has to be treated with dignity,” Mr Danbatta noted, saying that the “8-point agenda drives this point home.”

The NCC, he explained, has put measures in place to check and monitor Quality of Service (QoS) on various networks “and we have sent this report to our task force on QoS and have been interacting with governments at different levels as part of the measures to deal with the poor QoS.”

Danbatta admonished the operators and co-location service operators to provide suggestions on how to address the situation. Earlier, NCC’s Executive Commissioner (Technical Services), Mr Ubale Maska said, QoS has been a great concern as consumers inundate the Commission with complaints.

“It requires everybody’s input if the situation has to be redressed, hence 2017 has been declared the year of the Consumer.”

NCC Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity (DTSNI), Dr Fidelis Ona, explained that the Commission is aware of some of the challenges which include Right of Way (RoW), Force Majeure, Difficulty in acquiring new cell sites, multiple taxation and regulation, vandalism, power supply among others.

“We are engaging stakeholders, including Industry Working Group on Quality of Service, special committee on Counter Harmonization to address this.”

NCC’s Head, Quality of Service Unit, Engr. Edoyemi Ogoh in his presentation traced poor quality of service to fibre cuts, community issues, among others. He said in October 2016, operators experienced 175 cuts across the nation while they recorded 180 cuts in November and 103 in December, 2016.

There were 113 community issues in October 2016, 74 in November and 133 in December, adding that fibre cuts and community issues remain major drawbacks for QoS.

In their various presentations, some of the operators painted a grim picture of their encounters especially in an economy that is going broke.

Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at MTN Nigeria, Mr Hassan Jamil expressed happiness with the interactive session, so that the regulator can know our situation one on one basis…”

He said demand for both voice and data services are on the rise but we are unable to catch up on investment because of scarce forex availability.

The catalogue of woes he listed included inability to import equipment to boost expansion:

  • We can’t transmit forex to vendors
  • Incessant fibre cuts
  • Community related challenges
  • Scarcity of diesel to power base stations
  • Right of Way issues with different layers of government in the regions
  • Sabotage at different levels • We planned 100 sites for Abuja but after a very long-time we were only able to build six because of the bottlenecks of getting approvals and until we resolve these, quality of service will be a mirage.”

Similar situations were painted by representatives of Globacom Limited, Airtel Nigeria, Etisalat, American Towers Company (ATC), IHS Limited, among others.

The EVC encouraged the operators to be more creative by adopting alternative source of energy like solar power as a stop gap.

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