NCC to revive telecoms Special Numbering Service, ensure sustainability

*The Nigerian Communications Commission takes a decisive measure in ensuring sustainability, profitability and fair competition in the Special Numbering Service segment of the telecommunications sector in the country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As part of the Commission’s regulatory mandate, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it is taking a decisive measure towards ensuring sustainability, profitability and fair competition in the Special Numbering Service (SNS) segment of the country’s telecommunications sector.

ConsumerConnect reports the NCC noted the move informed its recent decision to hold a Stakeholders’ Forum on the ‘Determination of Call Termination Rate for Special Numbering Service Providers in Nigeria’.

L-R: Mr. Lucky Ubani, Lead, Regulatory Technical, Airtel Networks Limited; Engr. Anthony Ikemefuna, Assistant Director, NCC; Engr. Bako Wakil, Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity; Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, Director of Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis of NCC; Mr. Johnson Oyewo, Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs at MTN; Mr. Peter Adu, Head of Finance, Billing and Admin Department, Alpha Technologies; and Mr. Emmanuel Akinnubi, Manager, Pricing 9mobile Nigeria  Photo: NCC

Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, stated that the forum, held in the Conference Room at the Commision’s Head Office Tuesday, November 16, 2021, in Abuja, FCT, was well-attended by representatives of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Special Numbering Service (SNS) providers, and other stakeholders who participated actively in the discussions.

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The telecoms sector regulator said Yetunde Akinloye, Director of Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis, disclosed the meeting was convened following the extensive work of a committee set up by the Commission to look into the issues and complaints emanating from the SNS segment of the telecoms market in Nigeria.

A key concern, according to her, was the perception of high cost of delivering services to end-users in the SNS segment.

Akinloye also said: “This meeting is convened to discuss issues pertaining to the Special Numbering Service (SNS) segment of the Nigerian telecommunications market.

“Statutorily, the NCC is the custodian and manager of the toll-free and non-toll-free numbers licences, on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

The Commission’s Director of Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis further explained that owing to the scarce and finite nature of the numbers in the sector, the regulator is under obligation to ensure the utilisation of the numbers by the licensees in a way that delivers value to the final consumers and ensures sustainability of the industry.

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“The SNS has been in existence for the past 15 years, with some licensees actively engaged in the segment. However, we have noted some observations and complaints from different quarters on the use of these numbers. We have observed, for instance, that there has been no effective utilisation of the numbers” she said.

Akinloye also said the Commission had observed that the uptake of the numbers has been abysmally poor, contrary to NCC’s expectation as the sectoral regulator.

According to her, NCC has also received complaints from the licensees regarding the perceived high rates and charges by Mobile Network Operators, who are owners of the major infrastructure being used by SNS providers to deliver services to end-users.

In view of this development, Akinloye said the NCC set up a committee to do a thorough review of the market segment; research similar markets in other jurisdiction for benchmarking; and determine the appropriate call termination rates, through proper investigation, consultation and stakeholder engagements.

The Committee had done extensive work in this regard and as part of its rule-making process and regulatory transparency, the NCC has organised the consultative forum “to share outcomes of the Committee’s findings with the licensees, discuss the regulatory interventions that need to be taken and get inputs from all MNOs, SNS providers and other relevant stakeholders,” she noted.

In his remarks at the forum, Bako Wakil, Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity, lamented the SNS segment of the market has not been fully maximised because of the cost elements involved.

However, Wakil said if cost can be reduced, there will be greater benefits from economy of scale.

The NCC Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity said: “So, there has to be a way of making people use the service more if the price is appropriate.

“In the last 15 years of introducing SNS providers, there are less than 3,000 people using the service and yet, we have licensed additional number of players in the segment. “Therefore, we are looking at profitability, sustainability and vibrancy of the Value-Added Service segment.”

The NCC further stated in regard to inputs from representatives of MNOs and SNS providers at the meeting in Abuja, a new date was fixed for the second phase of the stakeholders’ forum at which more contributions will be taken to enrich the quality of decisions in that regard.

As the second meeting of the forum has been scheduled to take place December 14, 2021, in Lagos, the NCC has urged stakeholders to submit additional inputs and send same to the Commission by November 30, for timely assessment and collation before the second meeting.

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