NCC - Promoting Operator-Consumer Interface [analysis]
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Many users of telecom services in Nigeria hold the belief that the general poor quality of services is a deliberate act on the part of the operators to rip-off subscribers and maximise profits. This has accounted for the trend whereby the average working-class citizen and entrepreneur own more than one mobile phone or multiple subscriber identification modules (sim cards), the number portability option notwithstanding.
Against such a background, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has often stated its determination to mount pressure on telecom operators to offer optimal services to their subscribers. In his message to the 62nd edition of the NCC Consumer Outreach Programme held at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, executive vice chairman of the NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, reiterated the commission's determination in this regard. The outreach programme was aimed at bringing together telecom service providers to address some of the challenges of their subscribers as an avenue to rub minds on issues affecting the industry.
Juwah, who was represented by Dr. Femi Atoyebi, deputy director, Consumer Affairs of the NCC, repeated the warning that the commission would sanction any service provider for unapproved increase in tariffs and poor services. He used the opportunity to dispel fears that mobile phones have adverse consequences on the health of users, saying the claim has no scientific basis. "There has not been any scientific proof that radiation from mobile phones is harmful to the health of subscribers," he said.
In relation to similar concerns about masts and towers, the NCC explained that all telecommunication masts have recommended heights, to which the commission always enforces strict compliance to prevent harmful radiations from getting down to human beings and animals around.
"As it is now, for someone to be affected by radiation from masts, that person must have climbed the mast naked. If such radiation is so harmful, all the people in the United States of America would have died, because they have been using it (masts) a long time ago," he said.
The outreach programme was also meant as an opportunity for subscribers to ask as many questions as they could, as well as for the commission to make enquiries and where possible offer suggestions on how to move the industry forward.
Taking advantage of the occasion, most subscribers at the forum described the services offered by telecom operators as awful, and called on the NCC to live up to its responsibilities. Major complaints still put forward include difficulties accessing the networks; high volume of dropped calls; unsolicited calls and text messages to subscribers; poor customer relations, amongst others.
It is noteworthy that programmes of this nature have had a positive impact on the relationship between service providers and telecom users over the years. The middle-man role played by the commission often serves to dampen the anger of subscribers, who always feel short-changed by telecom operators one way or the other. A cursory observation will show that that there is hardly any subscriber who is satisfied and would attest to having received real value for money from telecom operating companies.
This too, the NCC tried to address by encouraging or rather, introducing the mobile number portability (MNP) scheme. The MNP is a scheme that allows subscribers the flexibility to migrate (port) from one service provider to another if he/she so desires while retaining their original numbers. In other words, MNP afforded phone users the choice to swap between the different network providers if they felt sufficiently dissatisfied with their current operator. However, maximum advantage has not been taken of this opportunity - thus the various GSM networks have not felt sufficiently challenged to offer cutting edge, competitive services with reasonable differentials in cost and quality. Some members of the public have observed that the porting scheme was not sufficiently publicised in order to drum it into the consciousness of subscribers. The commission would therefore do well to re-address this lapse.
Industrial harmony in the sector is necessary because recent advancements such as the auction of the 2.3GHz spectrum are a step forward in accelerating broadband penetration in Nigeria, and moving the sector to the next level. Speaking at the 10th anniversary of the Telecom Consumers Parliament (TCP) in Lagos, the commission's boss harped on the need to increase the level of broadband penetration in the country. This, according to him, informed the framework to support broadband infrastructure which has been fully articulated and is being implemented by the commission using the Open Access Model.
"The recent successful auctioning of one slot of 30 MHz bandwidth in the 2.3GHz spectrum in February this year is a step towards the successful roll-out of broadband services through the Open Access framework in Nigeria", he said, highlighting some of the challenges hindering the provision of broadband infrastructure to include issues of right-of-way, multiple regulations, multiple taxation, vandalism, and security challenges.
With the foregoing therefore, it envisaged that the already acknowledged contribution of the telecoms sector to the nation's economy can only improve with enhanced industrial harmony, ensuring a balance of forces between the service providers and consumers with the regulator as an arbiter.
Ayorinde, an expert in labour relations, contributed this piece from Lagos.
Copyright Daily Trust. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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