Story by Olabisi Olaleye
Telecommunications stakeholders said over-regulation from various organisations may do more harm than good to the industry.
According to them, in pursuing internal generated revenue (IGR), various organisations should not visualise telecommunications service providers as golden cow to milk or mega fortune as this may stunt the growth, kill or pauperise the industry, if caution is not taken.
These were the genuine concern of telecoms stakeholders last weekend during the third quarter seminar organised by the Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) in Lagos, which was sponsored by Airtel Nigeria.
Themed: ‘Impact of over-regulation of telecoms industry on service quality’.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta explained that governors are beginning to see and understand not just the economy but the impact of telecoms on their states.
“The Impact of over regulation of the telecommunications industry on service quality provides a haunting concern for us as regulators and for industry operators. You have said the NCC should look at the regulatory perspective of this subject of discourse”.
Though, represented by the Commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo, he stated that the commission is encouraged by ICT journalists concern because “We can see that apart from the primary stakeholders of the industry there are so many people that are concerned with the health of the sector. Your fears are genuine as anything contrary to the good figures coming out of the industry will spell doom for a very promising sector.
“However, the operating word in your theme, over-regulation, connotes something dangerous and harmful to the telecommunications industry. It’s either we are too strict with what we are doing at the Commission to the extent that we are impacting negatively on the industry we have created to protect or there are other bodies whose incursion into the Commission’s terrain is creating too much discomfort for those operating in the sector.
“We are serious with our job at the NCC. But we also know the reason for our existence; to create and nurture an industry that serves the needs of our people. That thought is uppermost in our minds as we strive to create accessible and affordable telecommunication services across the country”.
Speaking earlier, Nitra President, Mr Emma Okonji explained that it is the Association’s belief as telecoms reporters,” That over-regulation of the telecoms industry could stifle growth of the Nigerian telecoms sector that has been adjudged as the fastest growing market in Africa and the world.
“As watch-dog of the society, we have a duty as telecoms reporters to protect the gains of the industry and it is for this reason that NITRA thought it wise to bring together, the government, the operators and the subscribers, to find a common ground where the issue of multiple regulations and taxes could be addressed amicably, in the interest of subscribers and for the continued growth of the sector”.
Also collaborating Okonji, Director, Legal & Regulatory Affairs/ Company Secretary, Airtel Nigeria, Shola Adeyemi noted that at 150m subscriber threshold and 107 percent penetration (June 16), telecoms plays a key role as an economic enabler and social overhead capital (SOC) with a seven per cent contribution to GDP.
“Stronger collaboration of relevant stakeholders required to address incidence of multiple taxation in order to ensure that the Quality of Service is improved upon for the ultimate benefit of the country”.
General Manager, Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance & Regulatory Agency, Mr. Babajide Odekunle said the theme was important at this critical junction in the life of the nation, when other sectors of the economy must be unbundled in order to diversify our economic base as a country.
However, he denied closure of base stations, saying, “Under my leadership, LASIMRA has engaged with the NCC in order to ensure that support is given to operations in the areas of infrastructural deployment and service delivery to all stakeholders. It is on record that in 12 months that I have led the Agency, no Base Transceiver Station has been shut despite huge debts incurred by some operators in the State.
“The State was the first sub-national to execute and implement National Broadband Policy in order to accelerate rapid deployment of broad band in the country. Our Regulations at LASIMRA are governed by transparency, ability to pay, ease of payment and clearly defined permits and administrative charges.
“As a Chief Regulator in the Utility Infrastructure space in Lagos, our goal is partnership with all stakeholders which are, the citizens of the state, our communities, companies under our supervision and the Government. It is a partnership that we value and cherish, it is partnership that must work in order to preserve and protect our communities in order for our companies to engender sustainable growth, while ensuring that Government continues in it’s role of ensuring an orderly urban environment for life and business to thrive”.
However, Chairman , Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Alton)Mr. Gbenga Adebayo raised the fact that “Shall we continue to regulate technology or service because they are two different things.
“We however believe there is a need to balance these concerns with the need to ensure efficient service provision and counsel that the development of the appropriate regulatory framework can only be achieved through the auspices of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA). Such a framework will engender the sustainability of the environment while developing telecommunications Infrastructure for the continued socio-economic growth of Nigeria through the provision of world class services to Nigerians”.
The first Vice president of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (Atcon),Mr Tony Nwosu further added there was no doubt that the incessant shut down of telecoms facilities by multiple regulatory bodies have adverse effect on the quality of services offered by operators in the industry.
“The outages occasioned by these shut downs negatively impact quality of service indices such as reduced call completion rates, increased call drop rates, increased voice quality impairment, and transmission quality impairment. The overall implication of these is heightened consumer dissatisfaction with the quality of services provided by operators.
“Other implications of over-regulation in the telecoms industry include broadband roll-out delay, extinction of telecommunications companies and other telecoms service providers may be forced to relocate their services to neighbouring countries”, he said.