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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

‘NCC can’t stop sales of SIM cards’

Story of the week:

For those agitating for a stop to be put on the Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) sell by the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), there is no hope in sight as the regulator revealed weekend that such a decision cannot emanate from it.

NCC also insisted that its core mission is to ensure the extension of telecommunications services in the country and not to create bottlenecks.

The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, gave this insight at the weekend as a guest of Saturday Sunrise on Channel Television (Tv), saying that such retrogressive directive cannot come from the commission as it does not take decision for telcos but guides them to make room for a level playing ground for all including the subscribers.

“Our mission is to extend services and not to withheld services,” Ndukwe declared.

Responding to questions on whether the commission has the powers to stop the continuous pushing of more SIM cards into the market by operators, Dr. Ndukwe pointed out, that NCC does not in any form take decisions for operating companies but tend to direct them to ensure that all stakeholders are satisfied.

He painted an analogy that one cannot stop the sale of SIM cards simply because the quality of service (QoS) seem to be degenerating in a given area, pointing out that for instance, such an idea would not go down well with some communities where services have just been rolled out and is not even in the best interest of telecommunications development, especially in an emerging market like Nigeria.

He also said that its not NCC dream that telecom tariffs would drop overnight, just as he is not expecting any telecom company to crash prices drastically because of competition, stressing that in no distance time, such telco would witness unprecedented congestion on its network.

This, he noted was what happened recently when Celtel introduced free weekend calls, which almost jammed the network and has an effect on other network operators as their own subscribers cannot also make calls through to or from the jammed network.

He emphasised that the most important thing is for the operators to ensure that they have enough capacity to accommodate their subscribers as they extend services beyond the cities, adding that it does not make economic and business sense to rollout services when the operator is fully aware that it cannot match the roll-out with sufficient capacity, because definitely there would be traffic to and fro.

According to him, what NCC is looking at for this year is the transformation from the current level of service delivery to an improved phase and would continue in this regard till end of 2008.

Also, he said, this is based on the recent presentations by the operators on their plans of action.

To this extent, he said the commission is planning to make certain the commencement of building long-distance infrastructure to drive the promotion and provide capacity for the newly introduced Third Generation (3G) services in the country.

“Another thing we’re doing this year is to build long-distance infrastructure to promote and give the capacity required for 3G and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS),” he said.

Dr. Ndukwe further said that in the area of rural telephony that many rural areas in Nigeria have been covered and even connected with the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM).

“Apart from the 42m there are many more ordinary Nigerians who have access in the rural areas,” he informed, adding that more telcos recently licensed would be launching services commercially this quarter.

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