The year 2020 saw great strides in the Nigeria Telecommunications industry. Yemisi Izuora looks at those policies of government and implementations by regulators that made the industry achieve set goals.
The year 2020 was mired by disruptive economic tendencies arising from COVID-19 pandemic which destroyed the fabric of key business operations.
The year also witnessed humongous infrastructure destruction when Youths took To the streets nationwide asking for disbandment of SARS a notorious Police unit.
A lot of businesses were shuttered following destructive acts of hoodlums that hijacked the protests.
Recession equally set in to close the year but of all these the Telecommunications industry withered the storm.
InfraCo Project For Effectiveness
In the year under review, the NCC began a strategic review of InfraCo framework and their funding options. To this end, the Commission constituted a committee to review the framework for the licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo) and recommend sustainable funding options for effective implementation of the proposed national fibre project. It should be noted that the constitution of the committee was sequel to the requirements of the new Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020-2025) and reports of relevant committees set up by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which include the Inter-Ministerial Review Committee on Multiple Taxation on Telecommunications Operators over Right-of-Way (RoW) and the Technical Sub-Committee on Right-of-Way for Deepening Broadband Penetration in Nigeria. These requirements and reports relate to the imperative of reviewing the InfraCo framework to cater for the delays in take-off, change in exchange rate, supply chain and other challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Commenting on this, the EVC said, “The InfraCo project is dear to the government because of its ability to enhance robust and pervasive broadband infrastructure to drive service availability, accessibility and affordability.”
Regulatory Commitment, Transparency And Ethical Standards
The NCC has been ranked highest in terms of compliance to ethics and integrity among other sister agencies under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. The outstanding performance of NCC was contained in the recently released Ethics Compliance and Integrity Scorecard (ECIS), 2020 by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC). With a total score of 81.15 per cent, the Commission topped the list among three other agencies under the Ministry, which featured in the intra-ministerial agencies’ ranking in ethics compliance and institutional integrity. The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) emerged second with a total score of 74.05 percent; Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) came second with a score of 31.9 per cent while the National Information Technology development Agency (NITDA) occupied the fourth position with 17.65 per cent. The report underscores NCC’s critical role as a member of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU), which is the Federal Government’s vanguard for promoting ethics and ensuring compliance to ethical codes within the Nigerian Public sector. The ranking by ICPC, in addition to demonstrating NCC’s commitment to the orderly growth and development of the Nigerian telecommunications industry, underscores the Commission’s strategic role as a key enabler of positive change within Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape.
Further to this, the ICPC has on Thursday, December 10, 2020 in Abuja, inaugurated the NCC’s Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU). ACTU is the initiative of the ICPC, approved by the Federal Government to serve as an in-house mechanism for corruption prevention within MDAs, in line with global best practices of building strong institutions and institutionalising good governance in the fight against corruption. During the inauguration, Danbatta noted that that the ICPC itself has recently attested to the NCC’s high ethical values and professionalism as evident in the 2020 ICPC Ethics and Compliance Scorecard (IECS) report, where NCC topped other agencies in ratings. The EVC said the ICPC’s verdict also lends credence to the 2017 report of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR)-piloted Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) deployed in MDAs, where the NCC came off with a Platinum Level (Exceptional) award that NCC was a level 5 (Platinum standard) organization, the highest rating possible under the BPSR Assessment.
The MVNO Frameworks For Increased Telecom Access
In the year under review, the Commission developed a Consultation on Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Licensing Framework, essentially to bring another segment industry players, who will rely on existing operators’ network to offer services to Nigerians in the rural, remote, unserved and underserved areas of the country.
The MVNO framework is another initiative by the Commission to improve access and connectivity and it is based on NCC’s determination to introduce MVNOs’ services within the telecommunications market of the country. In pursuit of this, the Commission wishes to obtain comments from industry stakeholders and the general public on key considerations, which will be used to formulate a sustainable and efficient MVNO licensing framework, as well as a highly conducive regulatory regime that facilitates growth and development in the telecoms space, through competitive and differentiated services offered by these virtual operators.
Already, the document has been uploaded on the Commission’s website on December 10 and inputs from stakeholders on the MVNO document is expected to be obtained from members of the public within 21 days of the upload of the document on the Commission’s website. According to Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, upon closure of this period, the Commission will engage in deliberation sessions in an expedited manner to finalize its decisions about MVNO introduction in the market. A consultation report will then be generated and published to the public to create awareness of the Commissions decisions.
The Commission further noted that the consultation paper is in line with processes stipulated in the consultation guidelines put forward by the Commission in 2007. The Commission expected all comments received to be considered before making a final decision, although the commission may decline to use or consider anonymous responses. Comments and responses submitted are deemed independent from its respondent’s relationship with the Commission.
Sensitisation Procedure On Lodging Consumer Complaints
The Commission leveraged its social media platforms and other legacy media to sensitise consumers of telecom services who are dissatisfied with services rendered to them by any of the Service Providers on the procedures for lodging their complaints to the Commission. They were continuously sensitised on their right to seek redress of any service-related issue by reporting to NCC after they would have reported to their respective service providers and are still not satisfied with the responses.
Continuous consultation on planned 5G technology deployment Following the misinformation, miscommunication, misunderstanding and misconception that greeted the trial of 5G by the NCC in 2019, the Commission in 2020 began a deliberate regulatory measure by developing a Draft Consultation Document on the Deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) Mobile Technology in Nigeria. The document defines the implementation plan for the deployment of 5G in Nigeria. It provides a background into the benefits of 5G technology and outlines the Commission’s plans and strategies for a successful implementation of 5G in Nigeria and clearly presents guidelines for the relevant areas of the technology and the expectations of the Commission from the operators. This Plan takes into account the expectations of all the stakeholders in the communications industry in Nigeria. Nigeria undertook 5G trials in selected locations within the country in collaboration with an Operator in 2019. The trial, among others, was to study and observe any health or security challenges the 5G network might present and the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, has clearly stated that “For the avoidance of doubt, as with the previous technologies such as 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G, the Commission will not commence 5G deployment without due consultation with all relevant stakeholders.”