Danbatta charges Telcos to boost network capacity, to Mitigate COVID-19 impact

Executive Vice Chairman and Chief executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has charged operators to boost network capacity as COVID-19 bites; even as he listed critical regulatory actions taken by the commission to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on quality of service (QoS) delivery by telcos to consumers.

Danbatta enumerated the measures while speaking at the first edition of the Virtual Telecom Consumer Parliament (V-TCP) hosted by the Commission in Abuja on Friday, 21st August, 2020 with the theme: “Impact of Covid-19 on Telecoms Service Delivery.” The Telecom Consumer Parliament is NCC’s flagship forum for in-depth engagement with service providers to discuss issues of contemporary interest affecting consumers of telecom services in the country.

Citing an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) report, the EVC said with the pandemic, some telecom operators and platforms are reporting demand spike, especially in data usage and volume of calls, as high as 800 per cent since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Regardless of this, Danbatta said the Commission and the mobile network operators needed to play their roles in sustaining quality of service delivery and quality of experience by the consumers, who are critical stakeholders in the telecoms sector.

Danbatta said the NCC, in conjunction with the supervising Ministry developed e-platforms to handle all requests from the licensees to ensure that regulatory services are provided to sustain service delivery to subscribers.

He said the Commission also approved and encouraged resource sharing among network operators and secured Right of Passage (RoP) for all telecommunications companies and suppliers for easy movement during the lockdown. These measures enabled the operators to service their base stations and ensured seamless services for telecom consumers who increasingly relied on the networks during the pandemic.

Danbatta further stated that the NCC, working with the ministry is resolving the problem of high cost of Right of Way (RoW) with the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), adding that, through such engagements, the state governors have lent their support for a robust broadband infrastructure.

“The Commission is hopeful that with the reduction in RoW, which will automatically result in reduction in capital expenditure (CAPEX) by the network operators, telecom companies will sooner than later reciprocate the gesture by making their services more affordable to Nigerians,” he said.

According to Danbatta, regulatory efforts have also resulted in a Presidential approval directing Security Agencies to protect Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and telecom facilities as critical national assets. He said this has helped to safeguard telecom infrastructure for the greater role telecom has to play with the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Danbatta has strongly charged the service providers to constantly upgrade and expand their network capacity in order to deliver top-notch QoS to their consumers.

Earlier in a presentation, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Barrister Adeleke Adewolu showed the various Quality of Service (QoS) indicators for the second quarter of the year across the networks and how the consumer Quality of Experience compared with the parameters based on the voice of the consumer survey (VoxPop) conducted by the Commission. Speaking further, the ECSM highlighted the challenges facing operators, which impact negatively on quality of service to include fibre cuts, vandalism and theft of telecommunications site equipment.

A panel session of telecoms operators, who participated virtually in the TCP, was held and moderated by the Director, Consumer Affairs, NCC, Mr. Efosa Idehen.  The panel session addressed issues of network capacity upgrade, change in consumer data consumption behavior, implementation of agreed Consumer Complaints and Service Level Agreement (CC/SLA), consumer education as well as general issues around   quality of service and quality of experience by the over 192 million telecom consumers in the country.

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