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NCC: A Digital Enabler of the Renewed Hope Agenda

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In Nigeria, a young tech-savvy and upwardly mobile population is teeming and exploring derivable benefits of digital technologies. They are propelled by rapidly expanding internet access and steady broadband penetration, currently about 43 per cent.

Our digital economy is poised for significant growth, positively impacting various sectors and benefiting the nation through enhanced connectivity and digital skills.

Digital transformation is happening globally at a record pace. During the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, remote work and virtual collaboration tools took centre stage; platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet became—and still are—essential for meetings, conferences and team collaboration. E-commerce and online retail have transformed how consumers seamlessly order and receive goods and services.

Even traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses are changing the ways they engage with their customers through introduction of digital solutions to improve the customer experience. It is a no-brainer that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are revolutionising our lives for the better, whether in education, healthcare delivery, living, public services, energy management, and much more.

Suffice to say, that underpinning this global digital transformation is the indispensable role of telecommunications infrastructure. Universal, affordable, reliable and fast telecom services are becoming social rights, as mobile networks and data-centres form the backbone for digital transformation by enabling the storage and processing of large amounts of data as well as the integration of digital technologies into numerous use cases.

For President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Renewed Hope Agenda draws us all to a more promising outlook. Inherent in his agenda is the pledge to embolden and support the youth and women by harnessing emerging sectors such as the digital economy.

In delivering this vision, the Honourable Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani unveiled a blueprint appropriately titled – “Accelerating our Collective Prosperity through Technical Efficiency” with the goal of supporting Nigeria’s economic growth by enhancing productivity, facilitated by digital innovation.

Acknowledging the criticality of resilient telecommunications infrastructure to a robust digital economy, Dr. Tijani’s Strategic Agenda 2023 — 2027 sets targets to achieve a 50 per cent improvement in Quality of Service (QoS) by the end of 2024; to boost Nigeria’s broadband penetration rate to 70 per cent by the end of 2025; to deliver data download speed of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10Mbps in rural areas by the end of 2025; to provide coverage for, at least, 80 per cent of the country’s population, especially the underserved and unserved populations by the end of 2026; to reduce the gap of unconnected Nigerians in rural areas from 61 per cent to less than 20 per cent by 2027; and to secure between 300 per cent to 500 per cent increase in broadband investment by the end of 2027. 

Drawing from the Strategic Agenda of the Ministry, Dr. Aminu Maida, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) has emplaced three Strategic Focus Areas for the Commission: The Consumers, the Industry and Licensees; and the Government.

Dr. Maida’s approach to delivering on President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda comes from the recognition that each of these stakeholders has a unique perspective and different, occasionally-paradoxical expectations of the Commission. His goal is to forge a path that carefully balances each stakeholder’s needs while meeting their expectations.

Consider the Consumers—who are central to Dr. Maida’s focus—for example. His approach focuses on ensuring that they receive an enhanced Quality of Experience, beyond the narrow and very technically-evaluated Quality of Service. Quality of experience takes into account all touch points along the consumers journey in using telecom services from selection, through on boarding, usage, support and even off-boarding.

This means that, consumers are empowered to make the right network selection, enjoy a seamless onboarding into the network of their choice, enjoy quality service at fair costs, receive responsive customer service and enjoy protected off-boarding where they chose to leave the network.

To address consumer complaints on data depletion, the Commission has directed Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to conduct an independent audit of their billing systems and is concluding a consultation process to simplify tariff plans. These initiatives would provide enhanced transparency to the consumer. 

The Commission, under Dr. Maida, rather than taking a national outlook on data collection for Quality-of-Service delivery, has adopted an approach where more granular data is collected from operators and analysed to determine quality of service at very small, local levels,  to allow the deployment of optimised solutions or regulatory actions where needed. 

On the side of the Industry and Licensees of the Commission, Dr. Maida’s focus is aimed at forging a resilient industry and enhancing the delivery of regulatory services. Since he came on board, the Commission has shown commitment to tackling industry debt issues more seriously.

It has also embarked on critical advocacy initiatives to address long-term challenges in the sector, including advocacy for designating telecom infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure, as well as successfully persuading over six states to waive Right of Way (RoW) fees, even as he initiates discussions with more states.

The Commission, under Dr. Maida’s leadership, is equally engaging with the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms towards addressing multiple taxation issues in the telecoms sector.

In order to ensure that the industry is in line with current realities, the Commission is also undertaking a review of its extant Regulatory Instruments and Licensing Frameworks. For instance, Quality of Service Regulations have been reviewed to incorporate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for 5G and other participants that are critical to the Quality of Service.

By achieving expected QoS KPIs, high-speed internet connectivity, and forging a resilient and innovative telecommunications industry, the Commission is actively supporting the Ministry’s vision of boosting economic growth and productivity through technological innovation, delivering on the promise of Renewed Hope for all Nigerians.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

Telecom

Subscribers Decry Poor Service Delivery by Telcos, Accuse NCC of Playing the Ostrich

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Telecommunications subscribers have waxed angrily at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for pretending that everything was fine while subscribers grapple with unreliable internet and call services.

Subscribers Decry Poor Service Delivery by Telcos, Accuse NCC of Playing the Ostrich

They want the regulator could do more by compelling Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), also known as telcos, to improve their service.

Some of the major complaints are connection failures, poor data service, fluctuating network, data roll over challenges, illegal credit deductions and uncompleted calls.

Experts said that the drop in service quality has been attributed to the fact that three out of the four mobile network operators failed to meet the industry standards for network service.

In separate calls; Association of Telephone, CableTv, and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS-Nigeria) and National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOM) urged the NCC to live up to its responsibility of protecting subscribers.

Sina Bilesanmi, president, ATCIS-Nigeria, accused the NCC of pretending that everything was fine while subscribers groaned.

He said that ATCIS-Nigeria members have not only complained about drop calls and inability to originate calls, but they are also unable to access their airtime balance after recharging.

Bilesanmi argued that now that service quality has nosedived, there was no ground for telcos to justify any demand for a tariff increase.

He said that “ I have been inundated with complaints about low service quality from my members.

“ It is worrisome and the NCC is pretending that all is well. This low service quality is coming at a time when the MNOs are asking for a hike in tariff and our members were beginning to show understanding because, quite frankly, the tariff has remained the same for over a decade.

“The operators should tell us if they have any challenges.”

Elsewhere, Deolu Ogunbanjo, national president, NATCOM, said the service rendered by the MNOs had become  ‘’so bad’ that subscribers now lament openly.

He added that the telcos, on their part,   complained about their constraints to expand capacity.”

He said: “It(service delivery) has been so bad. It was one of the issues raised last Thursday but the telcos complained about their constraint to expand capacity and the need to raise tariff.”

Ogunbanjo said he supported the demand for an increase in tariff because it was overdue.

He, however, said an increase must be marginal in order not to asphyxiate the industry.

 

 


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Meta Disagrees with $220m Fine, Sets for Appeal

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Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp and Facebook, is preparing to appeal a decision by Nigerian regulators to impose a $220 million fine against it for alleged market power abuse and privacy violations.

Meta Disagrees with $220m Fine, Sets for Appeal

The company said that “We disagree with this decision as well as the fine and we are appealing the decision,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not specify where and when the appeal will be lodged.

It will be recalled that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) published the fine last week, capping a three-year investigation.

The inquiry focused on data sharing practices on WhatsApp, the most widely used messaging service in Nigeria.

The commission claimed it found evidence of “multiple and repeated, as well as continuing infringements” of the country’s data protection and competition laws and imposed the fine as a final resolution.

Meta was ordered to “immediately reinstate the rights of Nigerian users to self-determine and control” data sharing, and stop sharing WhatsApp users’ information “with other Facebook companies and third parties” without users’ active consent.

It was also required to pay $35,000 to cover the cost of the commission’s investigation, in addition to the $220 million penalty. Both amounts are to be paid within 60 days from July 18.

Nigeria began looking into WhatsApp, which has an estimated 51 million users in the country, in May 2021.

That was four months after the app updated its global privacy policy on messaging between individuals and businesses, and how users’ data may be shared with Facebook.

Meta began responding to concerns detailed in Nigeria’s report around March this year, pledging to cooperate towards “reaching an amicable resolution,” according to the commission.

A “remedy package” proposed by Meta and sent mid-April proved unsatisfactory to the commission, however, its report said.

It is not clear what this package is — an email for comment to the commission was not responded to. Nigeria still expects Meta to implement it and publish it on WhatsApp’s website within two weeks, in addition to the fines.

Beyond complying with its laws, Nigeria’s aim with the penalties is to get Meta to “cease the exploitation of consumers and their market abuse,” the commission said.

 

 


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WATRA Says Digital Economy Contributes $30Bn Annually to W/African GDP

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The West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) has said that the digital economy currently contributes around $30 billion annually to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

WATRA Says Digital Economy Contributes $30Bn Annually to W/African GDP

WATRA also called for lower cost of internet access to enhance the digital economy for the respective countries in the region.

Mr Aliyu Aboki, executive secretary, WATRA, who disclosed this during a virtual press conference at the weekend also said the West African telecommunications market is now valued at $63.17 billion with over 400 million mobile subscribers.

However, Aboki said WATRS is working on initiatives to facilitate infrastructure sharing among West African countries to lower the cost of internet for telecom subscribers across the region.

According to him, infrastructure such as gateways, and data centres are facilities that could be shared by countries in the region.

Admitting that the cost of internet across West African countries is still high, Aboki said a lower cost of internet access would enhance the digital economy for the respective countries in the region and increase the consumption of data by the citizens, which in turn generate more revenue for the telecom operators.

“We are exploring regional initiatives to share infrastructure and reduce cost. For example, we have infrastructures like gateways, data center servers, and so on. These are infrastructures that can be shared and used by different countries without necessarily having everyone building the same infrastructure.

“So, we are collectively looking at these rich regional initiatives that enable us to share infrastructure to bring down the cost of Internet ultimately,” the WATRA scribe said.

 

 


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