NIGERIAN GSM SUBSCRIBERS PLAN MASS PROTEST

Telecoms

According to Business Day, GSM subscribers are taking advantage of MTN’s free text message promotion to organise a "switch-off" day on 19 September in protest at high prices and network congestion. Catching the mood of popular anger, the NCC, Nigeria’s regulator is beginning a monthly television programme called "Telecom Consumer Parliament." The programme will bring together the industry regulator, operators, service providers, consumers and other stakeholders. It will provide a unique opportunity to raise questions about the quality of service, tariffs, customer care, consumer rights, interconnection and universal service provision.

Meanwhile last Thursday all four mobile operators (including the newly launched Globacom) met with President Obesanjo and left the meeting promising lower call rates and less network congestion. Econet’s CEO Zac Wazara defended his company’s record in the Daily Times saying that poor power transmission, the lack of good security (leading to thefts of base stations), the import duties on telecoms equipment and the high costs of licences were all contributing to the current problems.

The NCC’s spokesman said that the licence fees were only 2.5% of "operation cost and that the GSM companies were granted ‘pioneer status’ exempting them from paying taxes for three years. The NCC’s CEO Ernest Ndukwe (see people below) conceded that operators are unable to operate without stand-by generators running for significant periods and that this was adding unnecessarily to operators’ costs. As he acknowledged:"The vision of growing telecoms is hardly achievable unless built on a foundation of ‘always-on’ poer supply. Perhaps the entrance of the fourth player - Globacom - into the market will see some real competition emerge on pricing.