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EU Sets Deadline to End Roaming Charges, WATRA, Others Observe

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After years of negotiation, the European Union’s plan to end roaming charges across the continent on 15 June 2017 is now a step closer.

Negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission and Council this week agreed on price caps for the amount that carriers will pay one another when their when their customers call, send texts or use data within the EU.

“Goodbye roaming,” tweeted Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, the EU lawmaker who negotiated for setting wholesale rates on behalf of the European parliament.

Wholesale roaming charges have been fixed at EUR 7.70 per gigabyte from June 2017, reducing to EUR 2.50 per gigabyte in 2022. Phone calls will be set at EUR 0.032 per minute and sending a text will cost EUR 0.01 from June 2017. The caps will be reviewed every two years.

Wholesale charges for mobile data was one of the most controversial aspects of the deal, given Europe’s high mobile Internet consumption rates.

And wide differences in national prices and consumption patterns made reaching a Europe-wide agreement over wholesale charges for data a difficult task.

Caps needed to be low enough for operators offer roaming at no extra cost to customers without raising domestic prices, but high enough to recover their costs.

Price Caps Too High?
However, the price caps are set too high, argues MVNO Europe, which represents the interests of the Mobile Virtual Network Operators that serve more than 10% of the EU’s mobile customers.

“With excessive wholesale roaming charges, dominant mobile operators will be the only ones to drive the market, adding barriers for smaller players,” said MVNO Europe in a statement. “MVNOs, being the first-movers in offering innovative services, are therefore crucial for competition adding real value on the telecoms market and to end-users.”

Innocenzo Genna, MVNO Europe Vice-President, stated that, “European citizens expect the end of the roaming surcharges to happen without losing competitive tariffs and innovative offers: by contrast, with the present deal on wholesale caps, they will be heavily disappointed.”

Other Regions Will Be Watching
Roaming charges are, of course, an important issue for consumers and service providers worldwide. And getting the balance right is often a challenge for regulators.

Harmonizing an agreement across borders can be even more challenging, which is why Europe’s moves will be watched across the world.

Other regional moves to end roaming charges include recent agreements by a group of west African nations to abolish international mobile voice roaming charges.

On 31 March 2017, travelers between Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal will be able to make and receive calls as if they were in their own country. The move follows similar efforts across the continent in East Africa.

West Africa
The West African Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (WATRA) in March 2016 said it is putting up a guideline that will harmonise roaming activities of the ECOWAS region. These guidelines are being developed for a seamless interconnection and roaming of telephone users in West Africa.

This was made known when Alhaji Maman Laminou, executive secretary of WATRA, led delegates from WATRA to Abuja on a visit to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

He added that the harmonisation and many other issues will form the basis for discussions at the yearly general meeting in April 2016.

Nigeria
Also, in January 2016, and following the Consultation Paper on National Mobile Roaming, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) disclosed plans to implement a national mobile roaming strategy that will help operators in the country strengthen their operations.

The national mobile roaming is the ability of a cellular customer to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services, including data services, when travelling outside the coverage area of the home network, by means of using a visited network.

Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, national mobile roaming is a feature in several communication licences but it has not yet been utilized in the country.

Danbatta said even though it was technically possible to provide facility for domestic roaming, appropriate legal and regulatory framework have to be in place in order to encourage as well as assist the operators in realising roaming arrangement between them without any uncertainty.

 


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NCC Holds First Virtual Bi-Annual Meeting with Telcos

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Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and senior executives of telecommunication companies on complaints management recently held the regular bi-annual meeting, in compliance with COVID-19 management protocols instituted by the Federal Government.

NCC Holds First Virtual Bi-Annual Meeting with Telcos

Prof Umar Danbatta, EVC, NCC

At the meeting, which focused on consumer relations and complaint management processes, the NCC and the telecom service providers agreed that the compensation policy should be revisited and complied with at all times.

This is to ensure full compliance with the new Complaint Categories and Service Level Agreement (CC/SLA) consented to by the NCC and the service providers in the telecommunication ecosystem.

Additionally, it was decided that the Commission and telecom service providers will hold follow-up discussions on “Fair Usage Policy” on unlimited data bundles/data rollover, in order to provide a clearer explanation and better understanding of the processes and procedures of the policy for the benefit of the consumers.

The Commission hereby wishes to restate that its direction of June 2018 to service providers to commence implementation of data rollover from 26 June 2018, remains in force.

In other words, a subscriber’s unused data must be rolled over to his/her subsequent data subscription.

Therefore, the Commission urges service providers to continue to inform and educate subscribers on the procedures and processes for data rollover.

Service providers also agreed to ensure that senior-level customer relations officers support their respective complaints management teams, to resolve complaints that were not resolved to the satisfaction of the consumers when such complaints were first reported.

The service providers also promised to ensure that complaints are resolved in both the letter and spirit of the recently-reviewed Service Level Agreement (SLA).

With respect to services subscribed to through third parties (such as banks), which are not rendered, the meeting resolved that telecom service providers should explore initiating service level agreement with banks to ensure uniformity and speed in the resolution of complaints relating to billing.

All parties to the meeting equally agreed that telecom service providers will carry out pervasive consumer education and enlightenment campaigns about their products and services to ensure their subscribers have the information they require to make informed decisions and get value for money spent.

The commission wishes to state that it was very pleased with the impressive attendance, participation, and the quality of decisions taken at the bi-annual meeting.

The NCC is, therefore, determined to continue to work closely with the service providers and other stakeholders in the Nigerian telecom sector in order to improve on the quality of service, and by implication, the quality of consumer experience.

The bi-annual meeting, which has held regularly since 2018, focuses on ensuring improvement in Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) in the telecom industry.

It has served as a veritable platform for the Commission and service providers to discuss and agree on measures that will enhance prompt and effective consumer complaint resolution in telecom service provision in Nigeria.

 


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Ericsson Launches Integrated Packet Core Firewall to Boost 5G Core Security

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Ericsson is advancing 5G core network security for communications service providers (CSPs) through the launch of the cloud native Ericsson Packet Core Firewall.

Core network security is a key factor in CSPs’ forward business planning as they pursue innovative new business opportunities powered by 5G and emerging technologies.

Ericsson’s new solution, part of the Ericsson 5G platform, is aimed at enabling CSPs to pursue those opportunities not only through the best packet core network security capabilities, but also in the most cost-effective way for their business.

Powered by A10 Networks’ advanced security technology, the Ericsson Packet Core Firewall solution is already seamlessly integrated with Ericsson Packet Core Gateway in  Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core offering. The solution also supports end-to-end network slicing and edge computing.

The cloud native offering is optimized to scale with user plane to the edge of the network to cater for secure core network 5G use cases. By protecting a communications service provider’s core network – including sensitive service provider data and customer data – the all-in-one solution secures 5G service availability.

The solution delivers more than 50 percent total cost of ownership reduction over dedicated user plane security solutions, while maintaining 5G latency. This is enabled through a single CNF (Cloud Native Network Function) solution with simplified maintenance and orchestration.

Folke Anger, Head of Packet Core Solutions, Ericsson, says: “Securing service availability in 5G requires a holistic view beyond dedicated security solutions.

“We are now launching the Ericsson Packet Core Firewall seamlessly integrated into our Packet Core Gateway. This will provide our customers with substantial total cost of ownership improvements while ensuring their 5G services to the edge.”

Patrick Donegan, Founder and Principal Analyst, HardenStance, says: “Telecom operators need to think differently about how they implement security with a 5G Core. Ericsson’s Packet Core Gateway together with Packet Core Firewall integrates user plane and security functions in a single Cloud native Network Function (CNF).

“This allows significant TCO savings and is well optimized for edge use cases. It also enables automated, closed-loop, threat mitigation independent of transport equipment vendor.”

Dhrupad Trivedi, CEO and Board Chair, A10 Networks, says: “Mobile operators are transitioning to more cloud native and distributed architectures to support 5G. This increases the critical need for security and network availability.

“A10 is excited to expand our partnership with Ericsson to enable current and emerging 5G use cases. The Ericsson Packet Core Firewall powered by A10 Networks is ready for cloud native deployments and addresses the evolving business needs for operators.”


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Anambra Indicates Interest to Host NITDA’s South-East Zonal Office

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The Anambra State Government has indicated interest to provide enabling environment for the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) to situate its South-East Zonal Office in the State.

The State, also among other requests, expressed willingness to host some of NITDA’s events, programmes and establishment of information Technology hub in the State.

The State made the requests during a working visit to NITDA by Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA).

Mr Manfa in his address,  expressed that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”

He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.

While itemizing the identified possible areas of collaboration, Mr Manfa said that the state would like to partner NITDA on the newly launched Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture, (NGEA), training of youths in hardware and software skills, entrenchment of e-Government culture and learning interventions for secondary school students with the aid of Unity Board.

In his remark, Dr Vincent Olatunji, director, e-Government Development and Regulations, who represented Mallam Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at the meeting said it is gratifying to know that the state is keenly following the activities of the Agency in its drive to achieving digital economy for the nation.

He commended the state for developing its ICT policy to serve as road map on how the state would execute its IT plans adding that ANSICTA should ensure it drives the policy for the state.

While assuring the state that all its requests are not beyond what the Agency could provide, he enjoined it to formally write to the Agency by itemizing and prioritizing the area of collaborations.

The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of Award of Appreciation for his outstanding achievements in driving the digital economy.


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