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Sweeping Changes Required on Telecoms Industry Regulation

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Olusola Teniola, president, ATCON

The burgeoning growth of Nigeria’s telecom industry is now stalled, no thanks to a number of factors which have conspired to hobble operators and their operations.

At the height of telecom boom, the industry accounted for nearly 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product ((GDP) but shrinking consumer spending; foreign exchange volatility among others have dealt blow on the industry.

Mr. Olusola Teniola, president, Association of telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said the downward trend can still be reversed with a drastic change on how the sector is regulated.

He said that reforms in the sector must be all encompassing and address competition, markets and converged services, citing finance, media, technology and telecoms as are currently heavily intertwined.

“A drastic change is required in the manner the industry is regulated by NCC and as the CJN recently noted, the Nigeria Communications Act 2003 is now outdated and needs immediate review to encompass latest regulatory thinking on matters that properly addresses the data centric world that we find ourselves in and propagates a converged regulatory environment focussed on latest technological themes and not just on how voice calls are meant to be regulated”, Mr. Teniola said.

He However said that the clamour for reforms and new policies as panacea to the challenges faced by the industry, requires enabling environment that supports innovation.

Mr. Teniola said “The enabling environment is what industry needs to thrive under any government in power and this current administration is attempting to ensure that this environment is put in place to allow the private sector to contribute the innovative solutions and economic growth that will allow the citizens of the country to benefit from ICT advancements, the efficiencies and productivity that this brings to the growth. On the flip side most the growth in ICT has always been driven by innovation from experts and products and services has always been ahead of policy decision making and will always lead the way as long as we are a nation of consumers of technology.

The ATCON President speaking on trending topic- Data Floor, he said subscribers are important hence “Customers should demand that there are right choices that meets there every day needs and requirements.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Telecom

Angry Reps Threaten to Arrest Bello-Osagie, Airtel Boss

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Hakeem Bello-Osagie, chairman of the defunct Etisalat Nigeria

Segun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer & managing director, Airtel Nigeria

House of Representatives adhoc committee investigating the operational activities of telecoms operators panel Thursday threatened to issue an arrest warrant against Hakeem Bello-Osagie, chairman of the defunct Etisalat Nigeria, as well as Segun Ogunsanya, chief executive officer & managing director, Airtel Nigeria for shunning the panel’s summons.

 

According to the Hon. Ahmed Abu- headed committee, Bello-Osagie and the Airtel CEO refused to honour the invitations by the panel to answer questions on alleged tax evasion by Airtel and former Etisalat

 

Abu while speaking at the National Assembly during a public hearing Thursday described the behaviour of the two men as unacceptable adding that an arrest warrant would be issued against them should they fail to appear on the next invitation.

 

His words: “It’s important that your MD is here. Public interest overrides any other interest. We don’t want anybody to play this card to say people will lose their jobs. Nigerian workers are ultimate.

 

“It’s only in Nigeria where what happened in the transition between Etisalat and 9Mobile will happen. We looked into the books, and the balances are annoying. You must bring Bello-Osagie here, else we’ll issue arrest warrant against him.

 

He said while speaking on the Airtel CEO:  “when next we do a letter to the CEO of Airtel and he doesn’t turn up, we’ll issue an arrest warrant against him.”

 

However, because he was in a meeting at the Presidential villa, the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler could not appear before the lawmakers hence the spect of 5 percent Value Added Tax  charges on sales of recharge cards could not be treated.

 

Meanwhile, another ad-hoc panel of the House which is probing the various intervention funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has summoned the Managing Director of the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Kuru.

 

At the same committee hearing, the Director General of the Nigeria Lottery Commission, Lanre Gbajabiamila said that while approximately 295 licensed Value-added Service (VAS) providers have generated about N80 billion revenues across the four operators within the past 4 years , MTN alone is grossing about 50 percent of the entire revenue

 

He said it is therefore evident that there is need for the revenue sharing formula between Mobile Network Operators and Value-added Service (VAS)/Digtal content and  Mobile- based lottery providers be reviewed upwards in favour of the VAS providers.

 

Gbajabiamila, said the sharing formulae should now be 60- 40 in favour of the VAS providers.

 

“VAS partners are largely responsible for running lottery/promo services in behalf of the operators. As these initiatives are very resource consuming, it is important that any partner looking to engage in it is well prepared in terms of funding and planning of their expectations and returns.

 

” The resources and creativity the continues to be applied to VAS and digital content generation are the key components to the success of the industries..

 

“Over the years, collaborations between MNOs and the VAS partners have seen revenue share continue to take a fall from 60 to 30 percent on the average, to as low as 15 percent to VAS providers in some cases.”

 

He said previously, VAS partners who held licenses from the Lottery Regulatory Commission were guided by certain sets of provisional rules which are easily applied according to the type and scale of promo offering being proposed..

 

But that the guideline seems to be varying in ways that VAS partners are struggling to comply with. “And this is the basis of the presentation of our position to this honorable assembly.”

 

Gbajabiamila said the current lottery ACT 2005 seems to address mostly main stream lottery services, usually based in ticket sales and returns.

 

While citing, sections 20, 24, 35 and 57 of the Act he said a minimum of 50 percent of the proceeds of the National Lottery is to be paid to a prize fund, which is dedicated to the payment of prizes.

 

He however said that approximately 295 licensed VAS providers have generated about N80 billion revenues across the four operators within the past 4 years “of which MTN is grossing about 50 percent of the entire revenue.”

 

Members of the committee agreed that there is need to upgrade the share of the VAS providers adding that the Mobile Network Operators are obviously not treating the VAS providers fairly.

 

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Bharti Airtel, Tigo Merge to form AirtelTigo

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Bharti Airtel has merged with Millicom’s Tigo in Ghana to become the country’s second largest mobile operator, the new company AirtelTigo said yesterday.

The merger, the first of its kind in Ghana, is a bid to increase share in the West African country where mobile phone use is one of the highest in Africa and competition for 37.4 million mobile phone users is fierce.

South Africa’s MTN dominates with 47.5 percent of subscribers. Others include Britain’s Vodafone, Globacom of Nigeria and Sudan’s Sudatel Expresso.

The National Communications Authority regulator granted conditional approval for the merger in September, following an agreement in March by the two companies to combine their operations. .

AirtelTigo will serve around 10 million subscribers with revenues close to $300 million, it said in a statement.

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Telecom

Yola Hosts USPF North East Zonal Stakeholder Workshop on ICT Utilisation and Sustainability

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The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) secretariat, recently held the North East Zonal stakeholder engagement workshop in Yola

 

Universal Service Provision Fund a department of NCC created under the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 to support the provision of ICT services in un-served and under-served areas of Nigeria.

 

The USPF in keeping with the reigning paradigm of development and sustainability, particularly the importance of an all-inclusive engagement and collaborative partnership, convened the workshop to enable all stakeholders to discuss and evolve ways of ensuring the growth and sustainability of Community Resource Centres (CRCs), School Knowledge Centres and other similar projects and programmes facilitated by the Fund.

 

The Secretariat is convinced that it is through appropriate utilisation of these projects in a sustainable manner that will bolster the economy of the beneficiaries and communties, and accelerate social development especially in terms of qualitative and equitable education; effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare systems; improved access to markets and information for the small-scale farmers; and for neighbourhood crisis and disaster prevention and management.

 

Participants at the workshop were government officials, community leaders, development enthusiasts and journalists.

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