Danbatta lists steps taken by NCC to mitigate impact of COVID-19 on service delivery

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…Charges operators to boost network capacity

The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has listed critical regulatory actions that have been taken by the Commission to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on quality of service (QoS) delivery by the networks to telecom consumers.

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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.

  • L-R: Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Mr. Ephraim Nwokonneya; Director, Policy Competition and Economic Analysis, Ms Josephine Amuwa; Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Mr. Adeleke Adewolu; Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta; Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, Mr. Efosa Idehen;  Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Bako Wakil, and Director Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde,  all of Nigerian Communications Commission, during the 1st Virtual Telecom Consumer Parliament (VTCP) organized by the Commission in Abuja on Friday (21/08/2020).*

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.

Read his full speech below:

OPENING REMARKS BY THE EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, NIGERIAN COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (NCC), PROF. UMAR GARBA DANBATTA, FNSE, FRAES, FAEng, FNIEEE AT THE FIRST VIRTUAL EDITION OF THE TELECOMS CONSUMER PARLIAMENT (VTCP) HELD AT THE NCC HEAD OFFICE, MAITAMA, ABUJA ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, 2020.

 

The Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande,

 

The Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, NCC, Engr. Ubale Maska,

 

The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management, NCC, Barr. Adeleke Adewolu,

 

Other Members of NCC Board of Commissioners,

 

Management and Staff of NCC,

 

Collaborating Agencies,

 

CEOs and Representatives of Telecom Service Providers,

 

Telecoms Advocacy Groups present,

 

Our Esteemed Telecom Consumers,

 

The Media,

 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, physically and virtually present.

 

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this important occasion, being the first-ever virtual edition of the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP) organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission taking place here at the Commission’s Conference Room, Maitama, Abuja.

 

This event is organised, taking into consideration, the dynamics of the global pandemic and the directives from the Federal Government on social distancing and other measures thereof put in place to curb the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

 

The virtual meeting we are holding today, in place of our customary face-to-face engagement in previous Parliaments in the past, is a testament to rapid change to our lifestyle occasioned by the Covid-19 Pandemic. This is making telecommunications and indeed ICT the major driver of growth in every sector now.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, the theme of today’s event: “Impact of Covid-19 on Telecoms Service Delivery” is timely and could not have come at a better time than now.  The focus of this parliament also provide us with an opportunity as industry stakeholders, to have a quick look at how the pandemic is impacting our service delivery in the telecommunication industry, which currently provides the digital platform for the economy to remain afloat.

 

According to a report released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in May 2020, which examine the impact of the pandemic on the telecoms sector, “Covid-19 virus has presented a stress test for Governments worldwide with the Internet playing a crucial role in keeping critical infrastructure and resources connected and available.”

 

The report further noted that reliable, high-speed Internet is key to ensuring that hospitals and medical institutions have access to global information and resources necessary to fight the virus. Broadband connectivity is also absolutely crucial for educational institutions and businesses to continue to provide essential services. According to the report the unprecedented global health emergency is tasking mobile networks and digital platforms to the limit, with some telecom operators and platforms reporting demand spikes as high as 800% since the outbreak of the pandemic in their respective countries.

 

In the wake of the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria, the Federal Government announced different categories of lockdown which make the mobility and social life of citizens hindered, necessitating the need for individuals, businesses and public institutions to rely more on telecommunications to constantly keep in touch with their relatives, friends and more importantly, for running their daily economic activities.  Educational activities are also increasingly taking place online following the closing down of schools, while shopping and other activities have migrated online. With all these activities carried out through the internet, network usage is skyrocketing, with many network operators reporting large increase of data usage. Likewise, volume of voice calls is also increasing by the day.

 

As we all are aware, telecoms is highly capital intensive and as such, continuous network upgrade and expansion are very key to operators’ ability to deliver top-notch QoS to their consumers. For instance, if operators are not able to expand or they are incapacitated to expand and upgrade their network in the face of spike in traffic, as occasioned by the pandemic, it will definitely have potential grave impact on Quality of Service delivery.

 

Despite the pandemic and the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus, we on our part have also not relent to ensure that the quality of telecom services is sustained during and post Covid–19 period.

 

Some of the critical steps taken by the Commission in conjunction with the supervising Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy towards mitigating the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on service delivery by the network operators are:

 

  1. The Commission have developed e-platforms where all licensing requests, consumer complaints and base transceiver station (BTS) investigation requests are channeled and also provided designated e-mail addresses to be used for such requests throughout the pandemic period.

 

  1. Similarly, the Commission approved and encouraged resource sharing among network operators. These shared resources include fibre optics cables and ancillary resources, the aim is to ensure that there is no destruction to service provision in the event of fibre cut and related incidence.

 

  1. The Commission also secured Right of Passage (RoP) for all telecommunications officials and staff for easy movement during the lockdown and movement restriction in order to be able to service their base stations and keep them active to provide services for telecom consumers who increasingly rely on their networks to work from home. In the same vein, the Commission also secured Right of Passage for suppliers that are involved in supplies of fuels, food and other essential services to telecom operators during total lockdown.

 

  1. With the intervention of the Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, state governors are now aligning their Right of Way charges to N145 as approved by the Federal Economic Council (FEC), reducing below N145 per linear of fibre laid by the operators in their states. Other state governors pegged their RoW charges below the N145 set by the FEC while some state governors have totally waived RoW charges in their states.  All these are aimed at encouraging network operators to deploy telecoms/broadband infrastructure faster in their states with a view to deepening digital access. As Covid-19 evolves, a new world order where more activities are conducted online and robust broadband access is central is emerging. In effect, most of the state governors have appreciated the centrality of robust broadband infrastructure as work-from-home measures by government persists.

 

  1. 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 or later reciprocate the gesture by making their services in particular, data services more affordable to Nigerians.

 

  1. You would recall that one of the issues presented to the Honourable Minister when he assumed office is the need to strengthen telecom infrastructure protection. The Honourable Minister acted on this issue speedily by obtaining presidential approval directing Security Agencies to protect ICT and telecom facilities as critical national assets. It is pleasing that this action helped to safeguard telecom infrastructure for the greater role telecom has to play with the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to state that while the regulator and the supervisory ministry have left no stone unturned towards ensuring that telecom service providers provide good quality service despite the covid-19 pandemic. It is equally important that network operators improve the quality of experience of the consumers particularly as we all tried to navigate the disruptions caused by pandemic.

 

I will round up by urging all stakeholders attending this forum to undertake an objective assessment of the impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on telecom networks and service delivery to consumers as well as come up with suggestions that will enhance the delivery of Quality Service to our esteemed consumers during and post Covid-19 period.

 

On this note, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare this event open and profoundly wish you fruitful deliberations.

 

 

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