Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has made several efforts in addressing quality of service and anti competitive behavour in the country’s telecommunications space without the desired result. The commission had sanctioned operators, issued guideline on benchmark of expected level of service quality thereafter publish operators performance in this regard all these seem not to address the problem of poor quality of service.
However, operators have blamed the situation harsh operating environment where instead relying on public power supply have had to install generating sets in all their base stations, and are facing challenges of theft of these generators, vandalization and frivolous demands from host communities. These NCC partly acknowledged but are insisting that congestion on the networks form greater percentage of causes of poor quality of service to this end has indicated its intension to introduce Number portability in the telecommunications sector as a move to check problem as well as ensure economic growth through telecommunications service delivery.
Number portability is a circuit-switch telecommunications network feature that enables end users to retain their telephone numbers when changing service providers, service types, and or locations. Wireless number portability (WNP) when fully implemented nationwide by providers, will remove one of the most significant deterrents to changing service, provide unprecedented convenience for consumers and encourage unrestrained competition in the telecommunications industry. Observers believe that, this is the best method to increase the efficiency of the service provider by increasing the competition, thereby ensuring better services in all respect.
From the subscribers’ perspective, this is a simple and very welcome change, because they can change mobile service providers without worrying about notifying friends, family and business contacts that their wireless number is changing. In addition, being able to ‘port’ a number from one provider to another eliminates the hassle and expenses of changing business cards, stationery, invoices and other materials for business.
From the wireless carrier’s perspective, the change is anything, but simple. Virtually all of wireless carriers’ systems are affected. Especially any system that relies on mobile identity numbers (MINs) or mobile directory numbers (MDNs); will be affected such as: billing, customer service, order activation, call delivery, roamer registration and support, short messages service center, directory assistance, caller ID, calling name presentation, switches maintenance and CSC systems, home location register (HRLs), and visiting location registers (VLRs).
Number Portability types includes, location portability which is the ability for end users to retain the same geographic telephone number as they move from one permanent physical location to another, while service portability refers to the ability for end users to retain the same geographic or non-geographic telephone number as they change from one type of service to another.
Key driver for number portability are deregulation and introduction of competition globally, enhanced competition among operators, introduction of new bundles of services as well as creation of downward pressure on prices.
The system makes it easier for newer entrants to gain market share and also enhance the concept of personal mobility like personal terminal.
Dr. Bashir Gwandu, acting executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) said that number portability will empower subscribers to manage their “personal brand” with freedom to change operators, enables fair competition amongst operators and allow innovation to flourish with greater return on investment.
“It will reward creative marketing, service features, prices models, and high quality with growth in subscriber numbers, revenue, and ARPU,” he added.
Though it was introduced as a tool to promote competition in the heavily monopolized wireline telecommunications industry, number portability became popular with the event of mobile telephones, since in most countries different mobile operators are provided with different area codes and, without portability, changing one’s operator would require changing one’s number. Some operators, especially incumbent operators with large existing subscriber base, have argued against portability on the grounds that providing this service incurs considerable overhead, while others argue that it prevents vendor lock-in and allows them to compete fairly on price and services. Due to this conflict of interest, number portability is usually mandated for all operators by telecommunications regulatory authorities. In the US, LNP was mandated by the FCC in 1996. The mandate required all carried in the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) to be “LNP-capable” and port numbers to any carrier sending a bonafide request (BFR). The ability to keep a number while switching providers is thought to be attractive to consumers. It was also a major point made by competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) preventing customers from leaving incumbent line exchange carriers (ILECs), thus hindering competition. In the U.S., the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) mandated this in order to increase competition among providers. As of late November 2003, LNP was required for all landline and wireless common carriers, so long as the number is being ported to the same geographical area or telephone exchange. This latest mandate included carriers outside the top 100 MSAs that therefore enjoyed a rural carrier exemption.
In the United States and Canada, mobile number portability is referred to simple as WNP or WLNP (Wireless LNP). In Japan and Pakistan it is referred to as mobile number portability, (MNP). Wireless number portability is available in some parts of Africa, such as Kenya and South Africa which is the fourth-fastest growing mobile communications market in the world. The country’s three cellular network operators – Vodacom, MTN and Cell C provide telephony to over 39 million subscribers or nearly 80% of the population. The introduction of number portability as well as the arrival in 2006 of Virgin Mobile, a virtual network service provider that operates in partnership with Cell C, has helped enhance competition. South African mobile companies are making inroads into Africa and the Middle East, with MTN leading with over 20 operations in these emerging markets. Egypt commenced the implementation of number portability on April 7, 2008.
Huge cost is one of the most common barriers in MNP implementation, within any country. Service providers have been constantly bargaining for time, based on the cost factor, from their respective governments. Referring to the example of the US, where each of the large carriers would need to spend $5.1 million to institute the service and an equivalent sum to maintain it. The FCC on this plea gave wireless carriers in the US a year to resolve implementation issues. The cost estimate for the implementation of WNP in developed nations like the US can be very helpful for the other countries, who wish to think on the lines of number portability.
Infrastructure upgrade: to support MNP, a company has to upgrade both its hardware and software capabilities, which will amount to some cost. Software need to be upgraded to provide proper routing of calls. The carriers need to upgrade their networks to handle portability requests. The provider, which has its portability compatible would be expected to attract maximum customers and will emerge the winner.
Cost recovery, bill reconciliation and query processing: when a customer plans to shift the old service provider (OPS) has to perform a query to identify if there are any billing amounts pending, which they need to recover before the subscriber moves to the new service provider (NSP).
Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Alton) said that number portability is a common practice all over the world; it is a feature that can be supported by networks. But he said that the regulatory authority has not done enough in its approach to introducing number portability as it has not carried operators along.
This, some industry watchers attributed to refusal by operators to be part of a forum organized by NCC to educate operators on implementation of number portability held 2007.
Although some sections of stakeholders have attributed the uninteresting attitude of operators especially Global System for mobile communications (GSM), to fear of losing subscribers in view of poor quality of service by such operators.
They argued that most Nigerian subscribers don’t want to change their mobile phone which their friends and business associates have known them with, which is responsible for them not willing to move o other service providers even when their network operator’s service delivery is poor.
Adebayo urged for stakeholders’ involvement to determine the commercial, engineering and administrative implication of number portability implementation.
As mobile subscribers in the country are anxiously waiting for the commencement of the implementation of number portability which will ensure an improve quality of service, observers caution that operators be carried along to ensure it smooth implementation so as to achieve the desire result like in other countries.
Against these backdrops that NCC constituted a committee on the implementation of the policy which has since concluded its assignment and is most likely to introduce it this year having concluded the necessary steps in this regard.
Moreover, Manoj Kohli, chief executive officer, Bharti Airtel, which recently bought over Zain Africa, expressed the company’s support for the implementation of number portability in Nigeria as one way of redefining service delivery.
Elsewhere, the European Court of Justice last week has ruled that telecoms regulators can set the maximum retail price for porting mobile numbers between networks at a rate that is below that which it costs the mobile networks.
The decision stemmed from a fine imposed by the Polish telecoms regulator in 2006 against Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa (PTC) for imposing a PLN122 charge for porting numbers – which the regulator felt was sufficiently high as to dissuade customers from using the service.
Taking the view that the amount of the one-off fee relating to porting a number – the facility that permits a telephone subscriber to retain the same number when changing operator could not be calculated without taking account of the costs incurred by the operator in providing that facility, PTC brought an appeal against that decision.
The Court drew the conclusion that the costs for interconnection incurred by an operator and the amount of the direct charge to the subscriber are in principle connected. That connection makes it possible to reach a compromise between the interests of subscribers and those of the operators. The Court emphasises that the method chosen by the regulator to assess whether the direct charge has a dissuasive effect must be consistent with the principles governing the pricing for interconnection and thus serve to ensure the objectivity, full effectiveness and transparency of that pricing.
Therefore, the regulator has the task, using an objective and reliable method, of determining both the costs incurred by operators in providing the number portability service and the level of the direct charge beyond which subscribers are liable not to use that service.
NDPR to Safeguard Personal Data of Nigerians -DG NITDA
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has disclosed that the motive behind the issuance of Nigerian Data Protection Regulations, (NDPR) by the Agency was to safeguard the right of natural persons to data privacy, fostering safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of personal data, enablement of Nigerian businesses to be globally compliant and competitive and to create jobs for Nigerians.
Mallam Abdullahi revealed this Friday while delivering the keynote address at the 6th annual conference of Institute Internal Auditors of Nigeria, (IIAN) with the theme:, “Agility and Resilience” which was held on zoom conference platform.
The Conference aimed at preparing participants across Internal Audits, Internal Controls, risk management, revenue and Government assurance and other business professionals to learn how to leverage on new technologies and procedures towards actualisation of the organisation’s goals and objectives.
The NITDA DG who was represented Director e-Government Development and Regulations, Dr Vincent Olatunji stated that since inception of the Agency in 2001, it has been playing a catalytic roles to spur the infusion of technology into nation’s work processes reiterating that the Agency plays “critical roles in capacity development, provision of working tools for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“NITDA also has an existing arrangement with the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to aid the office in the discharge of its activities.”
Mallam Abdullahi said, “The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) was issued on 25th January, 2020 by my predecessor, DrIsa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
“As part of his think-tank then, our thinking was that Nigeria needed to quickly provide a regulatory framework for the processing of personal data.
“This was even more pertinent in consideration of the global implications of non-performance.
“Businesses where losing bids because investors felt there was no data privacy regime in Nigeria.
“The Agency’s implementation of the NDPR has been innovative and impact oriented. For the first time in data protection implementation, auditors became recognised as Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO)”.
He maintained that NITDA has 72 licensed DPCOs among which are members of this “august body,” adding that “this posture is not as a result of lack of professionals in the IT industry, rather, we have made conscious efforts to carry every relevant stakeholder along in our developmental regulatory strategy.
“ I hope this noble institute would repay NITDA’s generosity by imbibing ethical and professional principles on your members for better implementation of the Regulation.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, New Capital Cooperatives Society Mr. Benedict Anyalenka while commending the organisers of the conference affirmed that data privacy and protection should be a requisite skill needed for development of the Information Technology Sector as it would create platform for protection of information against unauthorized usage.
Anyalenka, however, called for proper awareness on the importance of data privacy among organisations and stakeholders across the country to safeguard citizens’ data.
FG Reveals Plans to Deploy Technology in the Health Sector
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government of Nigeria has announced plans to deploy information and communications technology (ICT) in the country’s health sector.
This is part of the plans to achieve transparency and accountability in health care delivery across the country.
Dr. Ngozi R. C. Azodoh, director, Special Projects, Federal Ministry of Health, who represented Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health, revealed this while speaking at MTN Nigeria’s Revv Programme masterclass on Thursday, September 17, 2020 .
The virtual session themed ‘Bridging the healthcare divide through technology and partnerships’ had in attendance health sector experts including Chief Executive Officer, Hygeia HMO Limited, Obinnia Abajue; Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder, Afya Care, Kola Oni; Managing Director, Ingress Health Partners, Dr. Orode Doherty and Chief Executive Officer, Tremendoc Limited, Ugochukwu Chikezie. The session was moderated by the General Manager, Business Development, MTN Nigeria, Omotayo Ojulatayo.
According to Azodoh, the federal government has put structures in place to utilise ICT as part of efforts to standardise the healthcare system.
“The government is working hand in hand with state governments across the country to maintain transparency and accountability, adding that ICT and other forms of electronic platforms are currently being improved and expanded following the federal government’s COVID intervention”.
She also shared that the ministry is willing to support small businesses in the sector imploring the participating SMEs to seize the opportunities provided by The Revv Programme.
“I want to ask everyone who is listening to write to the MTN Revv team and say this is one thing I want the Federal Ministry of Health to do to help my business then we can engage on how to proceed,” she enthused.
In her parting remarks, she also commended MTN Nigeria for providing a platform for SMEs to expand their capacity. “I must commend MTN for this excellent initiative. It has been very productive for me and an opportunity to transfer knowledge.”
The Revv Programme is an initiative from MTN Nigeria to help small businesses rethink and retool their operations in order to withstand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic using a four-pronged approach that includes masterclasses, access to market, productivity tools support and advisory initiatives.
Peace House Charity Foundation Seeks for DCTC Intervention
Mallam Kashifu InuwaAbdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), asserted that if we do not empower our people, they become a problem to the society in future.
He made this know on Friday while receiving a delegation from Peace House Charity Foundation,Yola who were at the Agency’s Corporate Headquarter, Abuja to seek for interventions in the areas of ICT.
The representative of the Director General, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, Director eGovernment Development and Regulation stated that one of the mandate of the Agency is the deployment of ICT infrastructure as such the Foundation’s visit at this time is very apt as the Agency is relentlessly working on the implementation of the Digital Economy strategy.
MallamAbdullahi affirmed that Agency at the moment is looking for organisations to partner with to sustain Digital Capacity Training Centres deployed across the country.
He commended the effort of the organisation in assisting orphans with not only providing basic education but also the provision of skills, mentorship and moral upbringing.
Speaking earlier, Mr Mohammad Bello, a Director with the Foundation said that the organisation was at the Agency to seek for ICT intervention and to commend NITDA’s effort in promoting ICT knowledge across the nation.
He stated that the organisation supports education for the orphans and the less privileged, promote health care delivery especially among women and children, provide sensitisation workshop for parents (mothers) on parenting and matrimonial home, promote unity and encourage self-reliance among the populace.
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