The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) is set to reduce the number of adverts and promotions which telephone service providers send to subscribers to enable them to improve on service delivery.
Minister of Communications and Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, made this known in Abuja on Sunday when she fielded questions at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
She told NAN that the promotions carried out by the operators affected the quality of service provided because when they embarked on promos, the number of subscribers on the networks increases and there’s pressure on the network.
The minister who admitted that GSM service delivery had been poor in recent times, said because of the growth of the sector, operators had been facing demand challenge.
She said the advertisements and promotions on telephones did not necessarily worsened service delivery, but that natural and man-made disasters that befell the country in the past few months also contributed.
"A couple of months ago in September we had a number of attacks on the base stations in the North-East part of the country. A lot of these base stations were taken out and of course that affects the quality of service in the northern part of the country.
"The floods actually affected the ICT infrastructure; we have cables that are buried underground, we have base stations with generators that were basically covered with water.
"So they had issues in the North-East, issues where the floods were in the southern part of the country; so this took out a fair amount of the network and so there were challenges so that’s why you see that the quality of service has actually got worse.
"One of the things that NCC is doing at this point in time is: we are looking at how do we reduce the pressure on the networks as they bail these networks out?
"One of the ways in which we can do that and which is going to happen in the next days or weeks is that we’ll begin to curtail the promotions because what the promotion does is that it either increases the number of subscribers unto your network or it increases the number of minutes of calls on your networks.
"Because that’s really what they are doing right now, they are all fighting for market share. We need to curtail that and we are going to do that so what that does is that it decreases the pressure on the network.
"There are other things which are the value added services that are run on the operators’ infrastructure and those are the messages and the SMS you get on people selling things, many of them unwanted.
"We need to look at that as well, while you and I may say they are unwanted, some people actually find them very useful and some of them are quite informative, but I think it’s something the regulator is looking at. Of course, it is really advertising.
"Many other countries don’t allow it, in the U.S. I don’t think it’s allowed, in the UK I don’t think you’re allowed to send unsolicited texts unto people’s phones so we need to look at that as well.’’ Johnson assured NAN that efforts were underway to ensure that service delivery got better.
She also said that to have better service delivery, the network operators had been given a mandate to meet certain criteria called quality of service indicators. She stressed that although the industry was the fastest growing one in Nigeria, there was no room for laxity.
"The ICT sector is growing at 30 per cent year-on-year and it’s been doing that for the last five years, it’s the fastest growing sector in this economy today. That sector is growing; consumer demand is growing and what we see right now is that the network operators are not able to keep up with the demand that they are seeing.’’
"Last year or the year before, the NCC, the regulator, had defined some quality of service indicators; call drop rates, call termination rates, all of those things were defined and articulated and the network operatives were told that you have to meet these quality of service indicators otherwise there would be a consequence.
"In May, it was so bad that we had to invoke that consequence, so the operators were fined significant amounts of money and nobody likes being fined by their regulator; I mean, it doesn’t bode well of you.
"But we also know that there are significant investments being made in those networks. You will see that a number of the companies, network operators have been advertising, they are upgrading their network.
"While there is a supply problem, this infrastructure is actually very vulnerable at this point in time not only vulnerable to natural disasters, which we can’t control, vulnerable to deliberate acts of vandalism on this infrastructure. This is infrastructure that is required for business, for security, for government, but really and truly it is treated so lightly.’’
Johnson also gave the assurance that in a few months, the telephone networks would be made better, noting that the building of ICT infrastructure took time. The minister also appealed to Nigerians to stop the vandalism of infrastructure and help to secure them instead.
"Those are the kinds of things that we’re discussing with the states and local governments to let them know that this ICT infrastructure is as critical as power. You never go to a transformer and just yank it out, so the way you treat a transformer, treat a base station like that, treat fiber optic cable like that.
"This is infrastructure and so as we’re building out these networks it would take time and I would say that you would see discernible improvement in quality of service over the next few months.
"But in terms of when can you get to that quality of service that you can make a call and it won’t drop, you don’t have to dial four times to get through to the person. I think we are about three or six months away from that.
"We’re working on it, we will get there because it’s not in their interest (service providers) to give poor quality of service and I think that the agitation from Nigerians is enough incentive for them and from the NCC we are putting them under pressure. It’s enough incentive for the network operatives to begin to do what they need to do with their networks.’’
Johnson said with the kind of service that would be provided soon, consumers would be the king.