NCC CEO, Eugene Juwah
By Emma Okonji
Worried by the negative effect of accumulated interconnection bills on telecommunications operations, which has reached over N20 billion over a period of 11 years, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has begun fresh move to address the situation.
One of the moves, according to NCC, is the planned release of fresh guidelines in January 2013 that would facilitate the process of getting quick approval from NCC to disconnect operators that are heavily indebted to interconnect billings, especially those that are reluctant to settle such bills.
Director, Legal and Regulatory Services at NCC, Mrs. Josephine Amuwa told THISDAY in Lagos, in an interview during the NCC’s organised forum on interconnection indebtedness in the telecommunications industry in Lagos recently.
According to her “We have since discovered that getting approval from NCC by the telecoms operators to disconnect other operators that are owing them on interconnect billings, takes a long period of between six months and one year and we are saying that this is not good enough because most operators are taking undue advantage of it and they are holding on to creditors money and depriving the creditors of the opportunity to better utilise their money for network expansion, which they all needed to remain relevant in business. So we are looking at reducing the time period in getting approval from NCC, as well as amending the process of getting the approval in order to disconnect operators that are heavily indebted, and all these will be spelt out in the new guidelines that will be released in January 2013.”
She explained that if an operator for instance was being owed over one billion naira by other operators, it would definitely affect output on service quality because the creditor needed money to maintain quality service on its network, and it would also have effect on the subscribers because they would not enjoy better service quality.
It is therefore necessary that operators pay up their interconnect bills as fast as possible, and restrain from owing other operators. The planned fresh guidelines would definitely address all of that, she said.According to her, the NCC’s Board had already approved of the planned release of new guidelines for interconnect billing, and that “NCC’s Act 2003 gives the commission the power to approve disconnection, and section 100 of that Act states that no operator can disconnect other operator without a written approval from the commission.”
Proffering legal solutions to end the accumulated interconnection bills, an arbitrator on dispute management with the Lagos State government, Mrs. Abimbola Akeredolu, who blamed the large volume of interconnect debts on sharp differences in revenue sharing ratios between Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operators and the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators, advised all telecoms operators to sign on to Interconnect Clearing Houses that were licensed by NCC in settling interconnect billings and rates.
Chairman, Dispute Resolution Committee, Nigerian Bar Association, Olasupo Shasore (SAN), advised NCC to set up mediation and arbitration panel that would look into cases of interconnect indebtedness.
Other stakeholders at the forum hailed NCC’s initiative in organising the forum, but wondered why some operators chose to owe their fellow operators, whereas they do not owe international carriers on their interconnect billings on roaming agreement.