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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NATCOMS backs GSMA on free AMOPHT

National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has insisted on free Anti-Mobile Phone Theft (AMOPHT) services in the country, appealing to the industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and telecommunications operators not to ignore its plea.

This is coming as the global umbrella body of the mobile telecommunications and Third Generation (3G) operators, the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA), reiterated its position on the services being free, even as it equally disagreed with NCC over the management of the International Mobile Equipment Identify DataBase (IMEI-DB) in the country.

NATCOMS also threatened to drag NCC and operators to the law court, if eventually all entreaties fail on deaf hears, just as the group plans to take its case to the Presidency and National Assembly.

Sounding this New Year warning, NATCOMS national president, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said that the onus is on both NCC and telecoms operators to provide free anti-mobile phone theft service to the nation’s teeming subscribers as it is free in any other part of the world where such initiative exists.

“NATCOMS plead with NCC and telecomms operators to provide free anti-mobile phone theft service to subscribers as it is free everywhere in the world and in line with international best practices,” he asserted.

According to NATCOMS all the telecoms operating companies including MTN, Celtel, Glo, MTel, Starcomms, MultiLinks to name a few should join forces in providing free anti-mobile phone theft services to subscribers.

Chief Ogunbanjo recalled that NATCOMS had commenced an Anti-Mobile Phone Theft Initiative tagged Anti-MOPHTI project since December 2005 at the monthly edition of NCC-organised Telecomms Consumer Parliament.

“Everyone present then agreed that something should be done to stop the criminal menace,” he asserted, adding that as a follow up, NATCOMS wrote an Anti-MOPHTI proposal through the Presidency to NCC as at March 20, 2006, which was acknowledged by April 19 of the same year.

NCC, he pointed out went on to invite NATCOMS for a meeting on the details of Anti-MOPHTI alongside the representatives of Newstream Technologies Limited.

As said by him, during the month of August 2006, at NCC organised consultation on a national scheme to curtail theft of mobile handset, the group reiterated its position with a detailed presentation and submitted an updated proposal on Anti-MOPHTI, emphasizing that the service must be free.

Fee-paying service, he said, is not acceptable to subscribers as it is against the norm and with international best practices, hence, NATCOMS insisted that NCC and the telcos in the country must understand that Nigeria is a leading player in the telecommunications world.

“We should always do things according to and in line international best practices, which in this case must be free of any charges to Nigerian subscribers as supported by the GSM Association – International,” he said.

He enjoined NCC to stop forthwith any motive for telcos to charge subscribers for this service, even as he said that telcos should show some pity, concern and care for subscribers on their networks by ensuring that they make the Anti-MOPHT free of any charges.

NATCOMS further warned that any attempt by telcos based in the country to charge fees, would amount to a total rip-off on subscribers and unpardonable before the populace.

“Telcos should for God’s sake make the anti-mobile theft service free to every Nigerian subscriber and work in concert with NCC to stop this assault that is about to happen on the subscribers,” he decried.

Stressing that NATCOMS plans to drag NCC and telcos before the presidency and the National Assembly, if they ignore this appeal.

“If Mr. President and the National Assembly also ignore Nigerian Subscribers, which we doubt, NATCOMS will go to court,” he warned.

However, responding to enquiry recently, Director, Fraud and Security at GSMA, Mr. James Moran, told Champion Infotel that GSMA discourages operators from developing their own national databases for a number of reasons, which is what is happening in the case of Nigeria.

He noted that though GSMA welcomes any initiatives that are designed to combat handset theft and is willing to work with the operators in any country to ensure the most effective and cost efficient solution is put in place, it does not believe it makes sense for operators to set up their own applications as one already exists that is free-of-charge.

“We do not believe it makes sense for operators to set up their own application as one already exists that is free to use and is capable of hosting any national or regional database requirements they may have. GSMA’s overriding objective is to help support operators to establish solutions that operate at maximum efficiency and minimum cost,” he said.

Mr. Moran noted that the IMEI Database (IMEIDB) provides the best facility to allow the Nigerian operators to exchange stolen handset data, emphasising that IMEIDB provides operators with the functionality they required because it was designed specifically by operators for operators.

This, he pointed out would avoid duplication of efforts at local or national levels in terms of building up database that would meet up with the standards of GSMA

“Avoids duplication of effort that the development of a local database involves by preserving the concept of a global database of stolen phones and avoids fragmentation as well as saves the Nigerian industry the significant costs associated with developing and maintaining a duplicate database,” he told our correspondent.

Mr. Moran explained that by deploying GSMA-based IMEIDB, operators in the country would ensure that handsets stolen in Nigeria are also excluded on the networks of other operators connected to IMEIDB.

“This ensures more effective barring than would be the case if the data were simply shared on a Nigerian database only,” he said.

Many operators around the world, he said, have already implemented initiatives to combat handsets theft that revolve around the IMEI database and having worked with those operators GSMA would also like to offer the same assistance and support to the Nigerian operators should they require it.

He agreed that local initiative against the global standard in combating mobile phone theft, invariably would not be helpful to telecom subscribers in the country.

Reassuring, “We’re of the firm view that it makes no sense for the Nigerian operator community to set up a national database as our IMEIDB is available to them free of charge and it is capable of hosting any national or regional database requirements they may have.

GSMA, he submitted, strongly encourages use of the IMEI DB and welcomes all of its members to connect to the system.

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