Professor Umar Garba Danbatta
Professor Umar Garba Danbatta

2019: Reviewing NCC’s Regulatory Feats

NEWS DIGEST – While there may be lull in other sectors of the economy, the telecoms sector has remained consistent, recording greater feats courtesy of regulatory excellence of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) under the leadership of Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta. For the Commission, 2019 has been particularly eventful.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in 2019, carried out a number of regulatory activities towards ensuring increased access to telecoms services, increased consumer education and protection, boosting security of lives and property, sanitising the industry while also driving other initiatives aimed at boosting innovation in the telecoms sector and continuously galvanising the country’s overall economic growth.

Impressive growth statistics, despite challenges

Generally, despite challenges confronting the telecoms sector, the sector was able to recording impressive statistics during the year, courtesy of smart and effective regulatory role of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), resulting in greener outlook from January 2019 till date.

Telecoms continues to be a major contributor to the nation’s economy, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Telecom’s contribution to national gross domestic product (GDP) for the 1st Quarter and 2nd Quarter of 2019 stood at 10.11 percent and 11.39 percent respectively. These contrast with 9.19 percent and 10.43 percent contribution in the 1st Quarter and 2nd Quarter of 2018 respectively. Broadly speaking, general Information and Communication Technology (ICT) contribution to GDP has increased to 13.8 percent currently.

Active mobile voice subscribers increased from 174,012,136 in January, 2019 to 180,386,316 at the end of October, 2019 (which is the latest data in the industry, as posted on the NCC official website). Teledensity has also increased to 94.50 percent while internet subscribers increased from 114,306,598 to 123,559,596 during the period under review.

Upward trajectory of broadband penetration

Broadband penetration increased from 32.34 percent (indicating 61,732,130 Nigerians on 3G and 4G networks) to 37.87% (indicating 72,289,389 on 3G and 4G networks) between January and October, 2019. Various efforts of the Commission in licensing new spectrum bands, re-farming certain frequency bands and driving initiatives for increased broadband infrastructure in the country have also been responsible for this feats.

With increase in broadband penetration being recorded on a monthly basis, stakeholders have said that the NCC is well positioned and must be supported by the government through relevant policies to drive the actualisation of the country’s digital economy policy strategy, going forward. This has become necessary since, as usual, the Commission is expected to take the driver’s seat in the actualisation of the new broadband target being worked on by the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy. Just recently, the new National Broadband Plan Committee was inaugurated to come up with the new broadband target for 2020-2025.

With regards to the uptake of Mobile Number Portability (MNP), 110, 500 numbers were ported between January, 2019 and October, 2019, as against 71, 723 subscribers who ported their lines between the same 10-month period in 2018. This increase in porting activities in 2019 is attributable to increased public education and awareness by the Commission’s head office and its zonal offices, as they intensified awareness on the availability and usage of MNP across geo-political zones.

Stepping up consumer complaints resolution management

Also, in terms of consumer complaints management, the Commission received a total of 19,841 complaints from telecoms consumers across its various consumer complaints channels. Of these, the NCC successfully resolved 17,851, representing a 90 percent success rate of consumer complaints resolution during the period under review. Specifically, a total of 18, 717 complaints were lodged through the NCC Contact Centre by the customers to the Commission with a larger percentage satisfactorily solved. Little wonder, therefore, that based on their satisfaction with all these facilities provided for them to resolve their issues, a total of 19,345 satisfied consumers sent notes of commendation/appreciation to the Commission through calls made to the NCC Contact Centre and e-mails received via the NCC Consumer Portal. All of these were to appreciate the various regulatory interventions that helped in satisfactorily resolving their telecoms service-related issues.

Also in 2019, exposure to unsolicited text messages by the consumers declined drastically through the popularisation by the Commission and the resultant activation of the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) Short Code 2442 facility by the subscribers. Though, a voluntary service, a total of 22,356, 919 subscribers have now activated the DND service either fully or partially.

Aside all these impressive statistics, the Commission, in 2019, focused more on some key initiatives that have put the industry and the economy on a growth trajectory.

Telcos’ listing on NSE and boost in capital market operation

Year 2019 will go down in history as a memorable one when the yearnings of most Nigerians to have increased stakes in the telecoms sector got an unprecedented boost through smart regulatory activities NCC. Indeed, one of the remarkable achievements of the NCC in 2019 which has not only impacted the industry but also bolstered the entire economy was the Commission’s regulatory efforts in seeing to fruition, the listing of MTN and Airtel Africa on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

Speaking at a forum in Abuja, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said “The MTN listing has helped to translate into action, an important objective of the Commission, which is to promote local investment and ownership in the telecom sector. Also, with MTN’s shares available in the capital market, it is expected that Nigerians will buy shares and by purchasing the shares of MTN, they will be financially empowered and be socially transformed.”

According to Danbatta, “One of the benefits of MTN listing and those of other operators to follow, therefore, is that the telco would be able to raise more capital for network expansion which, in turn, will bring about an improvement in the quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) for the consumers of telecoms services, which is also a cardinal function of the Commission.”

Undoubtedly, despite the initial volatility seen in the Nigerian capital market earlier in 2019, the listing of the biggest telecommunication company, MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa, has helped in increasingly making the market capitalisation bullish. Today, capital market regulator and shareholder bodies have commended the effort of the NCC in making the capital market more resilient through facilitating the listing of MTN, a move that was fallout of the conditions the telecom regulator gave MTN following the telco’s violation of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) registration rule in the telecommunications sector.

Pioneering 5G trial in W/Africa

In 2019, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in its proactive regulatory approach, pioneered the trial of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria, becoming the first telecoms regulator in the West Africa to begin such historic trial towards unleashing greater digital revolution in the country. Consequently, 5G trials have been conducted in Abuja, Calabar and Lagos and the coming years can only be more exciting for Nigerians, who will, through 5G network deployment, have access to faster broadband speed to carry out personal and official activities. This will bring about more efficiency, effectiveness and growth.

Boosting FG’s push for increased security via ECC project

One of the flagship projects which the Commission was commended for in 2019 was the resolve of the Danbatta-lead NCC leadership to pay greater attention to the implementation of the Emergency Communications Centre (ECC) project. During the year under review, the NCC has activated and increased the number of operational ECC to 17 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital (FCT), Abuja – 18 ECC in all. The list includes: the FCT, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Adamawa. Subsequently, the commissioning of the National Emergency Toll-Free Number “112” and the Katsina State Emergency Communication Centre for the North West Zone was successfully carried out on September 23, 2019. Necessary preparations and arrangements are, however, ongoing towards ensuring successful launch/commissioning of such centres, including publicity and enlightenment in the remaining five (5) geopolitical zones and the FCT.

In recognition of this important role, the NCC’s Danbatta was recognised as Nigeria’s Goodwill Ambassador in Security and Emergency Management while NCC, as a corporate body, was conferred with the award of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Security and Emergency Management. They received the awards earlier in December at the maiden Security and Emergency Management Awards hosted by the Emergency Digest, a publication of Image Merchants Promotion Limited, in conjunction with the Centre for Crisis Communication.

Closely linked to the NCC’s efforts in implementing the ECC Project to boost Federal Government’s drive to promote security of lives and property, was also the Commission’s ongoing efforts towards sanitising the country’s SIM database for increased security in the country. In 2019, over 24 million invalidly-registered subscriber records were scrubbed (deduplicated) by the Commission via Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in fulfilment of the mandate to establish a credible database of telephone subscribers.

Licensing of 10 VAS aggregators

Following the development of its Value-Added Service (VAS) Aggregator Framework for the telecoms Value-Added Service (VAS) segment, the NCC, in 2019, awarded the VAS Aggregator licenses to 10 companies to provide aggregator services. This will boost the competitiveness of the telecoms VAS segment of the telecommunications industry. It is also to unlock the huge potential of the telecoms VAS market, which has been estimated to be worth $500 million in the next few years. The licensees are I-Cell Multimedia Limited, Nina-Jojer Limited, 21st Century Technologies Limited, Nitroswitch Limited, HML Consulting Limited, Iykejordan Limited, Cognys Systems Limited, Perpetual Communications Limited, Mobile Intelligence Limited and Aerandir Technologies Nigeria Limited.