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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

SIM registration: NCC insists on May take off, revisits price cap

The acting Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Stephen Bello has said that the Commission would revisit price cap regime in the telecom sector, while maintaining that registration of SIM cards would commence on May 1, 2010, as planned.

Speaking in Abuja, Bello said price cap regime which existed at the inception of mobile phone services is one of the issues that the Commission would tackle soon to ensure that operators within a bar relative to interconnect rates.

“In 2001 when GSM started, we said that nobody should charge above N50 per minute and that was many years ago. Now, we have the fact that the number of lines has increased, there is economy of scale and you know that as you have advantages of economy of scale the unit price comes down,” he declared, stressing that NCC believes that the competition in the industry would control prices, just as the situation may arise in which people sometimes cooperate and try to maximize their profit.

“Therefore, we in NCC have developed a policy we refer to as price cap regulation where we give a price and the competition can make you to operate within this degree of freedom, but not beyond it,” he said.

Equally, Bello said there are many methods of regulating prices in the industry but the current government policy is that the Commission would not be engaged in direct price control as existed in the 70s when government publishes the price of commodities which no seller would go above.

He pointed out that NCC recently reviewed the interconnect rates, which is the rate at which operators pay when they transfer calls amongst themselves, but these are yet to trickle down to the subscribers.

“So, we have resolved that we will need to revisit the price cap to ensure that these advantages trickle down, and we will begin the process with consultation with the operators and collection of some data to implement it,” he asserted.

On the commencement of registration of SIM cards on Saturday, May 1, Bello noted that some operators have expressed reservations with the dateline, but said that experience has shown that operators always resist anything that would cost them extra money.

“Even when they believe in it and they believe that it’s necessary because they are always looking at the bottom line, they want to maximize their profit. The same thing happened with per second billing. We have been on this thing and we have given enough time to get ready, all the issues have been discussed, we have had many meetings so the issue of publicity we are addressing it immediately so we are maintaining our stand that SIM card registration will start on the 1st of May unfailingly,” he said.

The acting EVC emphasized that his office has given a transition window during which some of the issues would be addressed.

“With that, we believe that that cushion of three months during which we have the transition period is enough for everybody to take care of some of the delays,” he said, noting that NCC still maintain the fact that SIM card registration would start May 1.

He explained that there would be a transition period and the details of that would come out later on

Bello also reiterated that the Commission under him will not waiver in all the ongoing projects inherited from his predecessor, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, such as number portability, SIM card registration, emergency communication projects and many others.

“I have been involved so it is a matter of just continuing the process. There is nothing that is on the line that we are doing that I have not been fully involved in, so I am familiar with all the antecedents and all the issues and how to take it to a logical conclusion. So, definitely I will just flow along and make sure that all these things are put in place and completed”, he said.

On the first interactive session with the Minister of State for Information and Communications, Mr. Labaran Maku, and industry stakeholders, he said that the stakeholders spoke their minds and that the Minister has given insight into what some of his policies and operational modes would be.

“I think based on the interaction, the industry is set to move fast, that the gains made in the past will definitely be improved upon, and we will go ahead and we believe there will be no gap,” he submitted.


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