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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Pantami, CBN halt MTN, mobile operators planned N4 charge per USSD – ITREALMS

The Honourable Minister of Communications Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has ordered a halt of the proposed MTN Nigeria’s charge of N4 per 20 seconds use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), due to commence Monday, October 21, 2019, reports ITREALMS.

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) opposed plans by MTN to charge their subscribers for USSD, access to banking services from October 21.
USSD, ITREALMS gathered, is often referred to as ‘Quick Codes’ or ‘Feature codes’; is a communications protocol used by Global System for Mobile (GSM) cellular telephones to communicate with the mobile network operator's computers.
“Yello, as requested by your bank, from October 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more info(rmation),’’ the message purportedly from MTN read.

But reacting to what has become a viral text message allegedly sent by the Mobile Network Operator MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators notifying subscribers of a four naira (N4:00) charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019, Pantami said his office has been undated.

According to the Spokesperson to the Honourable Minister of Communications, Uwa Suleiman (Mrs), the attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to the text message making around, allegedly sent by the Mobile Network Operator MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators.

She said, the office of the Honourable Minister of Communications, Dr Pantami, is unaware of this development and has hereby directed the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure the operator suspends such plans until the Honourable Minister is fully and properly briefed.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, also opposed plans by MTN to charge their subscribers for USSD access from October 21.

Briefing newsmen, CBN Governor said at the just-concluded World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, in Washington on Sunday, denied the MTN decision insisting that the request negates the progress of the industry.

MTN had in a Short Messaging Service (SMS) to some subscribers, stated that the decision was on the request of the banks and would take effect from Monday, October 21, this year.

“Yello, as requested by your bank, from October 21, we will start charging you directly for USSD access to banking services. Please contact your bank for more info(rmation),’’ the message read.

For CBN governor, “About five, four months ago, I held a meeting with some telecom companies as well as the leading banks in Nigeria at Central Bank, Lagos. At that time, we came to a conclusion that the use of USSD is a sunk cost. What we mean by a sunk cost is that it is not an additional cost on the infrastructure of the telecom company.

“But the telecom companies disagreed with us, they said it is an additional investment on infrastructure and for that reason, they needed to impose it. I have told the banks that we will not allow this to happen. The banks are the people who give this business to the telecom companies and I leave the banks and the telecom companies to engage.

“I have told the banks that they have to move their business, move their traffic to a telecom company that is ready to provide it at the lowest possible, if not zero cost. And that is where we stand, and we must achieve it,’’ he said.
ITREALMS gathered that the transactions to be affected by the charges include intra and inter-bank money transfers, via the use of USSD, among a few others.

Chuks Egbuna/Editor

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