The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) on Thursday told consumers to expect poor data services, a day after the Nigerian Communications Commission was compelled by public backlash to suspend a planned tariff raise.
The chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said in a statement in Lagos that there was need for an upward review of the tariff, so as to offer better data services to subscribers.
Mr. Adebayo said the operators fully understood the public sentiments that greeted the announcement of a minimum data tariff being introduced by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
He said the NCC intervened to set the data tariff floor in view of its statutory responsibility to promote healthy competition, by periodically reviewing voice and data tariffs in the industry.
According to him, the commission’s intervention was to ensure the sustainability of the Nigerian telecommunications industry.
He also said the regulatory body had extensive consultation with the industry prior to the finalisation of the data tariff floor.
“Further, the commission has since Wednesday suspended the implementation of its determination on the data tariff floor.
“ALTON notes that it is within the statutory remit of the NCC for it to make decisive interventions to address the data price concerns which had led to data prices falling to unreasonably low levels.
“This is with the effect that telecommunications operators were unable to recover the cost of providing data services and reinvest in capacity expansion to accommodate the increased usage arising from lower tariffs.
“The situation has been compounded by the recent economic challenges characterised by the steep depreciation of the naira.
“It is characterised by the need to resort to the parallel market and foreign exchange scarcity, which have considerably increased the capital and operational cost of providing telecommunications services.
“This has made current data tariffs unsustainable.
“This situation, if left unaddressed, could result in a sustained deterioration in the quality of data services across all networks and the attendant poor quality of experience for users.
“In this regard, our members await the conclusion of NCC’s market study, when the commission will be in a position to determine its requisite intervention,” Mr. Adebayo said.
He said that NCC introduced the minimum price for data services to help ensure cost recovery and drive the continued investment in the telecommunications sector.
The ALTON chairman said it was necessary for the provision of world-class data services for the overall benefit of the Nigerian subscriber and the Nigerian economy.
“It is our belief that interventions such as these are in keeping with the NCC’s tradition of implementing customer-centric regulatory initiatives such as the Do-Not-Disturb Service and the Mobile Number Portability Scheme.
“These were introduced to enhance customer satisfaction with telecommunications services.
“ALTON also notes that price changes for data services across all networks following any intervention by the NCC are not expected to have a detrimental effect on broadband penetration contrary to some sentiments being expressed in the media.
“ALTON wishes to emphasise that while it is imperative that telecommunications operators continue to explore opportunities to provide their subscribers with more value for their money, it is important that prices be set at realistic levels.
“This will ensure that subscribers are not only able to afford services, but that operators are also in a position to provide first-rate Quality of Service to their subscribers,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NCC on Wednesday suspended any further action on the directive to introduce price floor for data segment of the telecommunications sector beginning from December 1, 2016.
The Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Tony Ojobo, said in a statement that the decision to suspend the directive was taken after due consultation with industry leaders and the general complaints by consumers across the country.
Mr. Ojobo said the commission had weighed all of these and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.
He said the regulatory body wrote to the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on November 1, on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after the stakeholder’s consultative meeting of October 19.