The regulator could do more to ensure better services

The mobile telecommunications sector has grown to become a very important contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector has expanded the broadband, internet penetration and most importantly, subscriber base in the country, especially in the last four years. Recent market figures reveal that there are over 172 million mobile subscribers on all the networks in Nigeria, accounting for a penetration rate of 87 per cent of the population. Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors, subscribers are experiencing poor service quality in no fewer than 20 states.

Key among the subscribers’ complaints are connection failures, poor data service, fluctuating network, data roll over challenges, illegal credit deductions and uncompleted calls. The drop in service quality has been attributed to the fact that three out of the four mobile network operators failed to meet the industry standards for network service in the affected states. Also in May and June last year, the industry data revealed that subscribers in 26 states experienced poor and unsatisfactory call service. According to the data, telcos fell short of the four major key performance indicators: dropped call rate, call set up rate, stand-alone dedicated control channel congestion rate and traffic control channel congestion rate.

It is unfortunate that Nigerians have continued to experience poor service quality from the telcos in spite of their spending between N2 trillion and N3 trillion annually on airtime. That industrial glitches have subsisted despite the repeated sanctions by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to bring sanity to the sector is indicative of how deep the rot is. But we believe the regulator can do more to ensure the telcos comply. The NCC should also address some challenges which the telcos have highlighted as being responsible for the regime of poor service quality.

Operators have always blamed poor infrastructure in the country characterised by inadequate power generation and supply as one of the reasons for the atrocious quality recorded in the sector. Operators have also complained that road constructions and repairs leading to cable cuts, vandalism of equipment, and other security issues are responsible for service challenges being experienced across board. They also cite multiple taxation, cost of maintaining equipment, etc., as huge responsibilities. But all these are normal business risks. In any case, if all these problems have not prevented them from making huge profits why should they be excuses for poor service delivery?

We task NCC to continue to collaborate with the relevant agencies to ensure adequate security for telecoms facilities and also engage stakeholders on the need to protect telecommunications infrastructure. The sector will continue to grapple with poor service delivery if criminal elements continue to tamper with telecoms infrastructure across the country. We also call on the federal government to urgently address the challenge of low broadband penetration. It is expedient to look into this issue of low deployment given that Nigeria requires about 158,000 metres of optic fibres as against the 38,000 metres that is currently available and which hardly can provide adequate broadband cover for the entire country.

Above all, the message from the NCC to the operators should be very clear: It is not just about increasing subscriber numbers, there should be a commensurate increase in the quality of service they provide. Making a simple voice call has become a problem and holding a brief conversation has become even more burdensome. The current level of frustrating experiences characterised by high rate of dropped calls, high rate of call attempts, call interference, loss of audio and recurrent down times, have therefore become unacceptable. Nigerians are tired of constant promises from the stable of operators on what they plan to do on the improvement of quality on their networks. They want concrete action.