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Telecom subscribers yesterday kicked against the request of operators to jerk up call tariff by 40 per cent. They said the request is absurd and reflected insensitivity on the part of the operators on the plight of telecom consumers that have been terribly ravaged by double digit inflation affecting the economy.
The operators, acting under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had asked for upward reviews in voice calls, short message services (SMS) and data costs.
ALTON had made the request in a letter addressed to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), citing the rising cost of running business as reason.
According to ALTON, the proposed upward review of the price of calls will increase from N6.4 to N8.95, while the price cap of SMS will increase from N4 to N5.61.
But the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said the operators should not in any way try to increase the yoke on the neck of suffering Nigerians by increasing tariff at this time.
According to him, what the operators should be appealing to the Federal Government to do is to unconditionally lift the ban imposed on over 70 million subscribers who have not linked their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) with their National Identity Number (NIN) from originating calls from their mobile phones.
The NATCOM chief lamented that both the operators and the affected subscribers were losing revenue already because a lot of the subscribers depended on the affected lines for their livelihoods since most of them operate in the small medium enterprises (SMEs) segment of the economy.
He said the Communication and Digital Economy Minister, Prof Isa Pantami should immediately lift the suspension placed on the affected subscribers and extend the deadline by another three months so that the financial haemorrhage besetting the industry could be halted.
Also speaking, the President, Association of Telephone, Cable and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ACTIS), Sina Bilesanmi, said any increase in tariff now will be bad for the consumers who are already impoverished by government policies.
The ACTIS chief said the quality of service (QoS) does not even support any hike in end user tariff, adding that the operators must first improve service quality before contemplating tariff hike.
“Yes we know the operators are also affected by the pains the ordinary man on the streets feels but it will not be the best for them to increase tariff now. If they do it, it will be an increase in the suffering of the people,” he said.
Efforts to speak with Director, Public Affairs t NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adindewas futile as calls placed on his mobile phone rang out without being picked.
ALTON said since its members were not connected to the national grid, they rely on diesel to power the base transceiver stations (BTS) the price of which had hit the rooftop increasing opex by 35 per cent.
It added that the introduction of the recent excise duty of five per cent on telecom services had further increased the burden of multiple taxes and levies on the industry.
“As the commission may be aware, the power sector under the supervision of its Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission of the power sector in November 2020 undertook a review of electricity tariffs to cater for the economic headwinds reported above,” the letter reads.
“In view of the foregoing, ALTON considers it expedient for the telecommunications sector to undergo periodic cost adjustments through the commission’s intervention to minimise the impact of the challenging economic issues faced by our members. Details are hereunder:
“Upward review of the price determination for voice and data and SMS. Given the state of the economy and the circa 40 per cent increase in the cost of doing business, we wish to request an interim administrative review of the mobile (voice) termination rate for voice; administrative data floor price, and cost of SMS as reflected in extant instruments.
“With respect to voice and SMS cost, ALTON respectfully requests the commission to consider a mark-up approach to address the upward price adjustment desirable for the industry. We have enclosed herein and marked ‘Annexure 1’our proposal in that regard.
“For data services, we wish to request that the commission implements the recommendations in the August 2020 KPMG report on the determination of cost-based pricing for wholesale and retail broadband service in Nigeria. Excerpts from the report are attached and marked ‘Annexure 2’ to provide a further illustration.
“In implementing the said recommendations, however, we recommend that the 40 per cent increase in the cost of doing business be factored in to arrive at a cost price per GB in view of the current economic situation.”
The group also highlighted other demands to the commission such as to explore other penalties for operators other than punitive monetary sanctions, extend the payment timeline of relevant regulatory levies and fees, prevail on the federal government to sign the executive order declaring telecoms infrastructure as a critical national infrastructure to mitigate cost spent replacing damaged and stolen infrastructures, among others.
It added that the Mobile (Voice) Termination Rate (MTR) for voice, administrative data floor price and cost of SMS as reflected in extant instruments should also be increased.
“For large operators, a new interim MTR of N5.46 from N3.90 reflecting 40 per cent increase in the cost of business for small operators, the new interim MTR of N6.58 from N4.70 reflects a 40 per cent increase in the cost of business,” the leaked letter had said.
Consistent with Section 108 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA 2003), the Commission is responsible for the approval of tariffs and other charges for the provision of service by licensed telecommunications service providers.