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Telcos May Block Skype, WhatsApp Calls over Haemorrhaging Revenue

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With the economic crisis in the country hitting businesses hard, telecommunication firms are opting for drastic measures to boost revenue, including moves that may block subscribers from accessing Skype and other Over-the-Top services, according to the Punch.

Telecoms companies in the country are hoping to address concerns over revenue loss from international calls and hit a revenue target of N20 trilion.

Pucnh gathered that subscribers might also be prevented from performing certain functions like voice and video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook, among other OTT services.

Skype is a proprietary Voice-over Internet Protocol software for calling other people on their computers or mobile phones.

Phone calls using the Skype software can be placed to recipients on the traditional telephone networks; and calls to other users within the Skype service are free-of-charge, while calls to landline phones though reasonably priced, are charged via a debit-based user account system.

“It is an aggressive approach to stop further revenue loss to OTT players on international calls, having already lost about N100tn between 2012 and 2017,” a manager at one of the major telecos in the country said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the manager said, “If we fail to be pro-active by taking cogent steps now, then there are indications that we may lose between N20tn and N30tn, or so, by the end of 2018.”

The source added that the increasing rise of the OTT players, who provide voice and Short Message Services, or apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger and Viber, was eating deep into the voice revenue of telecommunications companies in the country by more than 50 per cent.

A United Kingdom-based research and analytics company, Ovum, stated in a report recently that $386bn loss would accrue over a period of six years – between 2012 and 2018 – from Nigerian customers using the OTT voice applications.

“Generally, the main fear of the telecoms operators here will be that customers will increasingly use Skype as a substitute for conventional international calls,” the Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, Matthew Reed, said.

Telecoms operators in the country said that international calls made up a critical part of their revenue because of Nigeria’s large expatriate and Diaspora population.

The apprehension over shift from voice call, according to them, is worsened by the steep decline in voice revenue.

The operators stated that at the start, they were looking to offset the fallout of intense competition by closing gaps that were spurring revenue leakage in the business.

They blamed the Nigerian Communications Commission for not properly regulating the sector in order to protect and keep them in business.

But reacting to the development, Mr. Tony Ojobo, Director, Public Affairs, NCC said, “We don’t have any evidence of that. We do not regulate the Internet.”

Mr. Kenneth Omeruo, Managing Director, TechTrends Nigeria said, “I am not aware of this development but globally, operators and network equipment makers don’t really embrace Skype.

“They liken Skype to an individual who takes undue advantage of other people’s generosity without giving anything in return. Globally, there is this apprehension among telecoms operators that Skype only steals their customers, while they invest billions of dollars to build, expand and upgrade networks.”

Major operators in the country’s $38bn telecoms market such as MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat said if the NCC failed to take decisive actions, they would keep struggling to counter a trend in which the prices of basic voice and data services were declining.

For instance, MTN Nigeria said that the OTT content services had a “cannibalising effect” on network operators’ voice and data revenue, because they provide “free” services, which duplicate those already provided by network operators such as voice calls and the SMS.

According to the firm, a ready example is WhatsApp, which provides free instant messaging services as an alternative to text messaging services provided by mobile network operators.

“It (WhatsApp) has also launched a free voice service,” the Public Relations and Protocol Manager, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Funso Aina, said, adding, “The point to note in this argument is that the OTTs allow users to send unlimited texts, images, video and audio messages free of charge, using their current data plans.”

According to him, the problem is that these services are provided using network infrastructure of the operators, but without commensurate compensation to operators.

Aina added, “At the same time, they are denying operators of revenue to grow their networks, thereby impacting on service delivery and long-term sustainability.

“For instance, to date, MTN has invested over $15bn in building its network in Nigeria. You can now imagine an OTT leveraging the network to deliver its content without investing a kobo locally. The impact on revenue is huge.

“Furthermore, because these entities are not licensed, and because they have not built any infrastructure locally, they do not have the same costs as the licensed operators.

“They do not pay taxes, they do not employ any people locally, and indeed, they have no local presence whatsoever, meaning they do not make any contribution to our economy and their services are denying those who make contributions of income.”

The MTN public relations manager stated that it was the view held by most within the industry, but noted that “at MTN, we are looking to find win-win solutions for all stakeholders.”

Aina, however, dismissed the allegation that some telecoms operators had continued to dispute a view that they were making enough money from their higher paying data services to offset the loss of voice and messaging revenues.

He explained, “Every service is provided at a cost, and we cannot subsidise one service through revenue from another; so, the argument as to whether loss of revenue from one is being offset by another is really not a fruitful argument.

“The important thing is that services must be produced efficiently and all stakeholders, including our customers, must get fair value for their investments.”

Checks by The PUNCH showed that in the United Arab Emirate, Etisalat and Du had recently lifted a ban on Skype services. Both telecoms companies had announced that their subscribers could now download the application online and make Skype-to-landline or mobile calls, which were not previously permitted.

Many telecoms operators worldwide, including some companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Spain, prohibit their mobile phone customers from downloading Skype’s software, or outlaw the use of voice over the Internet phone services in their standard sales contracts.

Other carriers have imposed fees to undermine Skype’s attraction. Moreover, barriers to Skype software and similar Internet calling services are coming under increasing scrutiny as the Internet goes mobile.

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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NCC to Order Telcos to Refund Illegal Deductions from Subscribers

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Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said it may soon order telecommunication operators to refund illegal deductions from subscribers.

 

Prof Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, EVC, NC, said the illegal deductions were made in five months.

 

He said 58,965,478 total Active Broadband Subscription on 3G and 4G platforms was recorded as at November 2018.

 

Danbatta explained that Internet subscription grew from 107,547,723 in October 2018, to 108,897,679 in November 2018, while Active Voice Subscriber base grew from 165,239,443 in October 2018 to 169,104,830 in November 2018.

 

The commission also disclosed that Nigeria has exceeded 30 per cent broadband penetration target, as it the record stood at 30.9 per cent in November 2018.

 

Danbatta who was represented by Sunday Dare, executive commissioner, Stakeholders Management, said Nigeria would achieve close to 50 per cent broadband penetration by 2019.

 

According to him, contributions of Telecommunications and Information Services to GDP from Q1 to Q3 2018 were N4.7 trillion, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

 

In the last quarter (Q3, 2018), the amount stood at N1.5 trillion, according to Q3 figures reported by the NBS.

 

Danbatta said that Telecommunications and Information Services Sector grew by 14.7 per cent from Q1, 2017 to Q3, 2018.

 

The NCC has also promised to reduce call masking across the nation by 80 per cent before 2020, noting that about N6 billion is lost yearly to call masking

 

The executive vice chairman disclosed that tracking technology has made the commission to reduce call masking by 21per cent as at August 2018, even as nine offenders have been arrested.

 

He said the commission had in the last six months, took proactive measures through investigation and efforts to reduce incidents of SIM boxing in the country by 32 per cent.

 

According to Dambatta, call masking/refilling occurs when an international call is terminated in Nigeria as a local number.

 

He stressed that perpetrators have ulterior motive of profiting from price differentials between international and local calls termination rates.

 

He added that a SIM box has the capacity to receive and transmit calls undetected.

 

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Broadband: Danbatta Reaffirms Commitment to Infrastructure for last-mile connectivity

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L-R: Aremu olajide, chairman, Technical Committee, Reprsentating ALTON Chairman, Mr Emma Okonji, Chairman, Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) and Dr. Henry Nkemadu, Deputy Director./ Head, Special Intervention Projects, NCC at the 4th Quarter Seminar/Induction Ceremony of the Nigerian Information Technology Reporter's Association (NITRA) held in Lagos

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission on Friday reemphasized the commissions’ commitment in ensuring the provision of broadband infrastructure across the country to achieve last-mile connectivity.

 

He stated this at the 4th Quarter Seminar/Induction Ceremony of the Nigerian Information Technology Reporter’s Association (NITRA) held in Lagos.

 

The theme of the events was: ‘Achieving Last-Mile Connectivity through Affordable Broadband’.

 

Danbatta, who was represented by Dr. Henry Nkemadu, Deputy Director./ Head, Special Intervention Projects, NCC noted that Nigerian Communications Commission will ensure the provision of broadband infrastructure across the country to achieve last-mile connectivity.

 

He added that Communications Sector is a catalyst that would provide the needed infrastructure that will enable other sectors of Business, Education, Health, Agriculture, Governance, Finance to thrive.

 

According to him, “the Communications Sector provides the infrastructure to enable other infrastructures in the different sectors of Business, Education, Health, Agriculture, Governance, Finance and so on.

 

“The importance of this sector has continued to enhance human capabilities such as healthy life, knowledge, creativity, collaboration, innovation, self-organization and participation in the social, economic and political life of the country as well as impact on economic growth through productivity gains.”

 

He also revealed that the commission’s activities have impacted on efficient improvements in service delivery that enable national development.

 

Danbatta explained that telecommunication acts as an enabler to drive socio-economic growth, developments and modernization across all sectors of the economy.

He added that robust and reliable telecoms service lies on adequate broadband infrastructure which will provide the needed impetus to achieve last mile connectivity.

 

He further stated that the Commission has made plans for massive deployment of 5G infrastructure in the country.

 

He said, “At the Stakeholders Consultative Forum on 5G Readiness and High Altitude Platform Station Technologies in Abuja recently, the Commission announced its plans for massive deployment of infrastructure for the new technology.

 

“5G has the potential to be transformational for communities in Nigeria because of the set high requirements for 5G networks: fast, ubiquitously available services provided by infrastructure deployed across all regions.

 

“The 5G technology has significantly faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices.”

 

Mr Emma Okonji, Chairman, Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) while delivering it opening speech said that broadband infrastructure is an enabler for economic and social growth in a digital economy.

 

He commended the 15 member committee inaugurated by former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to draw up national broadband strategy for a work well done.

 

He further commended NCC for achieving the 30 percent broadband penetration target that was set from 2013 to 2018.

 

Okonji extolled Danbatta’s passion for broadband development in the country, adding that it has further deepened broadband penetration and grew it to the 30.9 percent that we currently achieved.

 

Engr Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) decried the hostile business environment in the country, noting that it’s the reason why CDMA Company’s died.

 

He therefore called on the media to help in sustaining the environment by ensuring accurate reportage of the sector.

 

Adebayo, who was represented by Engr Aremu Olajide, chairman, Technical Committee, appealed on the media to always research on some of the laws being implemented by the state governments and ask questions on the areas of irregularities, citing the tax disputes between the Kogi government and mobile network operators as an example.

 

He condemned the multiple taxation Telco operators are being subjected to in the industry.

 

He further called on the support of the association in sustaining the industry through effective reportage.

 

Also speaking at the event, Dr. Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, said that cloud technology will transform Nigeria and Africa if we deploy it in sachet format.

 

He added that Nigeria run what he called a sachet economy, where we buy things in sachet form, stressing that deploying cloud in sachet format will ensure that it gets to the citizenry easy and faster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NCC Says Nigeria Loses $60Bn Annually to Call Masking

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said the Nigerian telecom industry loses about $60 billion dollars annually to call masking. Call masking is a process where international calls are terminated as local calls.

This NCC said has posed serious threat to the telecom industry but noted that the Commission has proffered solution to the problem.

Prof Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, dropped the hint on Thursday at the 86th Edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), entitled: “Overcoming Challenges of Call Masking/Refiling: Task Ahead for the Telecom Industry, on Thursday in Abuja.

Danbatta, who spoke through the Executive Commissioner Stakeholders management, Sunday Dare, noted that globally $54-$60 is lost to call masking but added that the Commission is taking proactive measures to curb the menace.

He said: “We don’t have the exact figures for Nigeria but globally $54-$60 is lost to call masking. This shows that it is a global menace which is not specific to Nigeria and it is possible because of innovative technology that is available.

“We talk about the VIOP which is Voice Over Internet Protocol, we talk about the OTT; Over The Top platforms where you do WhatsApp and all other video calls. These are innovations and technologies that allows for some of this to happen.”

“But we are happy to say for the last eight months, the NCC took very proactive measures, through investigations, we worked with our taskforce to have been able to reduce the incidence of sim boxing in this country by 34%.

“When you look at the roadmap so far, 2016, it started, in 2017, we started investigations. We moved from reducing it to 24% to 34%. I think the most critical point is; we have tried to look for a technological solution to solve what is a slight technical problem.

” As I speak, we have found a solution after the prove of concept. That solution has been tried in Lagos South West and about nine people have been arrested in the basement of a house and a few cars in which you have the boxes in their booths.

“We have tried that concept, it is working and we hope to launch it in January. If it is launched in January; I can assure Nigerians that before the end of 2019, we would have had 80% reduction in call masking,” he explained.

The EVC then called on the public not to hesitate to report cases of call masking to NCC, promising that appropriate measures would be taken against such persons.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Director Consumer Affairs Bureau, Mrs Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, stated that the forum allows for face to face encounter with the public and Stakeholders in the telecom industry and the theme is aimed at ensuring national security and a level playing ground for all telecom licensees.

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