Telcos agree to pay NCC fines

Almost three weeks after missing the deadline given the four GSM operators – MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat – to pay a N1.17 billion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the companies have agreed to pay the fine by next week. The telecos were fined for poor quality of services and failure to meet their key performance indicators (KPIs) However, the companies, whose representatives met with NCC officials in Abuja yesterday demanded, as a precondition for the payment of the fines, a review of the present KPIs, which they argued did not take into consideration the peculiarity of the Nigerian business environment.

KPIs are the parameters set by NCC to monitor quality of service, customer service and technical service, among others, but the operators have complained that the KPIs were unrealistic and unachievable, going by the present poor state of infrastructure in the country. During their meeting with the NCC yesterday, one of several in a series of meetings since the fine was imposed on May 11, agreed to pay on the condition that the KPIs will be reviewed. NCC Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, who confirmed the development said a truce was reached between both parties and that the operators had promised to pay the fine by next week. Although he did not give details if the fine that will be paid will include the added daily penalty of N2.5 million after the May 25 deadline, he said since they had agreed to pay, it would also include the daily fine, which he said might be paid together or separately. But an executive with one of the telecom firms disputed Ojobo’s assertion, stating that the meeting agreed that the companies would only pay the N1.17 billion fine and not the daily penalties for missing the deadline. Ojobo, however, disclosed that the operators visited the commission and made a presentation on the technology they would deploy to improve quality of service in the next few months. Outside the sanctions we demanded that they show us a concrete plan they have in place to improve their services, he said.

The operators, he said, had deployed hybrid power to bridge the challenge of power failure and promised to manage cities where they have high traffic so that services would improve. The service providers have given their commitment that services are going to improve because substantial investments are going to be made, Ojobo said, adding that the commission would monitor their networks to ensure they keep to their promises.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said the two parties were still holding meetings and consultations and the matter would be fully resolved by next week. Spokesman for Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Emeka Oparah, confirmed that the operators and the NCC had reached an agreement, but said he had no details. Other operators, who spoke in anonymity, also confirmed that they had agreed to pay the fine by next week.

One of the executives with one of the telecom firms explained that from the very first meeting between operators and the NCC, they demanded to know the basis upon which the fine was imposed, insisting that the present KPIs were unachievable, especially in a situation where nothing has improved in the operating environment in the last 10 years. “The Federal Government has failed to meet its end of the bargain by providing infrastructure and the enabling environment, and this has hampered our ability to provide top grade services,” he said.

Comparing KPIs in Nigeria with that of other countries, the operators revealed that the NCC saddled them with 117 KPIs, which include technical and customer service KPIs, whereas telcos all over the world are restricted to between five to seven KPIs, chief of which are customers impacting not back-end impacting. Citing India as example, the executive said “the Call Set-up Success Rate (CSSR) in India is 95 per cent, while NCC set its  own at 98 per cent in Nigeria. Also, the Traffic Channel Congestion (TCH) in India is 2 per cent, while in Nigeria it is 2 per cent. SDCCH, an engineering terminology for signalling congestion parameter, in India is set at 1 per cent, while in Nigeria, it is 0.2 per cent.”

“This means Nigeria’s obligation is five times more onerous than that of India’s requirement,” he explained. He insisted KPIs in Nigeria should be realistic and achievable, as it is in other countries. After listening to them, NCC, it was gathered, agreed with the operators to have a graduated  glide path to achieve the KPIs, which means that KPIs in Nigeria will henceforth be attained on a graduated level. The NCC had slammed the N1.17 billion on the four GSM operators for failing to meet the KPI test carried out on their networks for the months of March and April. The commission gave them until May 25 to pay the fine and warned that operators would pay a penalty of N2.5 million daily as long as the contravention persists.

The breakdown of the fine is as follows: MTN and Etisalat are to pay N360 million each, Airtel – N270 million, while Globacom will pay N180 million.

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