Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said Private Telecommunications Operators (PTO) and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) must merge to survive. The backlog of unpaid bills - both for interconnect and international carriage - is beginning to threaten the stability of the whole sector.

NCC Head of Consumer Affairs, Malam Abdullahi Maikano, said this in an interview with in Abuja. He said NCC was concerned with the poor performance of some operators in subscriber base index and revenue generation as they compete with the more fluid four mobile operators, MTN, Glomobile, V-mobile and M-tel.

"Quite a number of them are not big enough to be viable, and interconnection is a function of volume. So, it has been very difficult for them to stay in business," he said. Maikano said the commission has observed that most of the operators would not survive the rising competition if left to continue on their own as some have already folded up. "It will not be possible for them to continue in their current size, so we have advised that they drop the fear of losing control on their investments and merge," he said.

Maikano said there was a the need for some of the operators to go public as they would do better as big corporations rather than small telecom outfits.

PTO's, FWA and pre-paid operators already owe NITEL over N5 billion for local and international carrier services that they could not pay, and some of them had folded up without prior notification.

NCC Head of Consumer Affairs said the commission has been monitoring their performances to ensure safety of subscribers funds should any of the companies close-shop. He said the regulatory body would take a more decisive position after the implementation of the new unified licencing regime in February next year. NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, has at several fora in recent times directed PTOs and other smaller telecom operators to merge to withstand the rising competition with mobile operators.

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