Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Compensation’ll crash GSM networks – Experts

Cover Story of the week:

Telecommunications experts in the country have expressed caution over the agitation by some section of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) subscribers to be compensated over the poor quality of service.

They said that the proposed compensation would crash the GSM networks in the country.

Champion Infotel recalls that recently the telecom regulator in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) was stopped by a court injunction granted to two GSM operators, namely MTN Nigeria and Celtel Nigeria through a Federal High Court presided over by Judge D.D. Abutu, pending the determination of the suit on compensation to subscribers, which was widely condemned.

Also, last September, NCC had given notice of intention to issue directives to prevail on GSM operators in the country including Glo, to compensate subscribers on their networks following an increased rate of poor Quality of Service (QoS) across these networks.

The directive would mandate the operators to compensate the over 38 million GSM subscribers in the country, depending however, on the category of traffic parameters experienced.

A letter to this effect addressed initially sent to the GSM operators and dated September 19 and 20 respectively, signed by the commission’s secretary, Mr. Felix Odeoye, stated that NCC has been inundated with complaints from subscribers on the issue of poor and unacceptable level of quality of services across the telcos and was due to commence on October 6, 2007.

NCC had proposed a compensation of about N50 per subscriber monthly where there was 2 to 5 per cent traffic channel congestion and 5 to 10 per cent would attract N100 per subscriber per month and congestion level over 10 per cent, equally would attract compensation of N175 per subscriber, even as this could change depending on improvement of service or otherwise.

But reacting to the issue on ‘insensitivity’ of the GSM operators and motives for dragging NCC to court, some Lagos-based telecom experts who spoke anonymously expressed concern over the implications of the proposed compensation plan.

They argued that technically speaking, the telcos went to court with good intentions and as the last resort because of the foreseen implications of implementing the compensation as outlined by NCC.

While some said that the implementation of the proposed directive would amount to crashing of the networks, others warned that the implications would transcend the immediate telecommunications sector, because communications cuts across all sectors, especially in Nigeria where GSM has become a primary source of communications.

Yet other experts argued that it would impact negatively on the nation’s bid to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by sending wrong signals to potential investors.

“The reason for going to court was not just to stop NCC from implementing the compensation,” one of our sources said, stressing that rather it was to ensure that the huge investment already made in the industry would not become a retrogressive project.

“If we’re to implement the compensation, the networks would crash,” another source declared, pointing out that the industry has continued to transform into a dynamic state that warrants all hands to be on the deck across board by way of ensuring that other factors that mitigate against the growth of the industry such as poor electricity power supply, multiple taxations, insecurity to name a few, should be considered as well so as to make the outcome a wholistic one.

Whereas they implored subscribers across the GSM networks to avoid seeing the litigation against NCC from the negative angle of insensitivity, but for the good of all in the long run, adding that no business concern takes its consumers for granted.

“People should not look at the litigation as enemy of the society, but having an issue with a certain order especially by the state, which would be in the best interest of everybody in the industry at large,” one of our sources asserted.

Reiterating the resolve of the telcos to remain loyal to their subscribers and the government of the country, one of the experts noted that none of the telcos shy away from compensating subscribers where and when necessary.

The telcos took the part of the litigation to save the industry, because if it were to happen, it would definitely crash the network, reminding those agitating for compensation that already, there are some of the networks that have introduced free and near-free calls between 12am to about 5am daily.

“They took this step (court) to save the industry technically,” one of our sources claimed and the telcos are working round the clock to make certain that there is improved quality of service, even as its difficult to run an improved network while on diesel or any other alternative power system.

Even as they did not forgot an attempt to offer some incentives recently by one of the telcos during the peak period, which resulted in crashing of the network, and prompted NCC to order termination of that promotion.

“It would be worse when all the GSM operators are forced to compensate subscribers,” our source submitted.

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