Concerns over illegal ISPs as NCC plans clamp down
• Service providers connect 415,099 with 204,810 active subscribers
• Operators battle high spectrum cost, poor corporate governance
There are concerns in the telecoms industry about some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) whose licences are no longer valid but have continued to operate illegally.
The rising concern has forced the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to issue a warning affected ISPs to stop within 14 days or risk clamping down.
NCC, in a notice, sighted by The Guardian, titled, ‘To All Licenced ISP and Intending ISP Licences’, informed the public, particularly private/public companies engaged in ISP business, that operating without a valid licence is an offence.
The commission said in exercising its mandate of protecting the rights and interests of service providers and consumers following Section 31 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, it would not tolerate the illegal provision of telecommunication service.
In the notice signed by NCC Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Muoka, the regulator said operating without a valid licence could lead to sanctions and/or prosecution of culpable parties involved. The sanction could come in the form blacklisting and sealing the business premises of offending companies.
According to NCC, companies desirous of acquiring or regularising their licence status should obtain relevant information from the Commission’s website.
Further, the commission said it would continue to deepen its collaboration with services providers to facilitate the provision of ubiquitous telecoms infrastructure necessary to guarantee the quality of service.
NCC, thus, gave a 14-day pre-enforcement notice to all companies/persons to desist from the provision of Internet services without authorisation from the commission.
“The commission shall without further recourse and upon expiration of the deadline stipulated commence an appropriate enforcement action,” NCC stated.
Checks by The Guardian showed that there 103 ISPs with 415,099 connected users. Of this, 204,810 are active subscribers, while 2,146 are a point of presence (PoPs).
The top five service providers are Spectranet with 287,075 connected users. This is followed by Tizeti with 39,410 connected users
Last year, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, identified several challenges confronting ISPs in Nigeria. As at then, about 568 licensed companies had become inactive.
Danbatta said one major issue battling ISPs was anti-competition practices in the industry. He disclosed that a total of 756 companies had been licensed as ISPs as at March 2022, but that only 188 of them were active.
The NCC boss said other issues confronting the ISPs included inadequate spectrum, the high price of bandwidth, the high cost of right of way and the lack of good corporate governance.
Painfully, checks showed that as of March 2023, the 188 active firms as at last year dropped to 103.
Commenting, a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, said ISPs have been struggling to stay afloat due to challenges confronting the market. He disclosed that most of the ISPs, which served the enterprise market lost revenue during the pandemic because their services were cancelled or suspended despite procuring wholesale capacity.
Aluko said the challenges could form the reason some of the operators, whose licences have expired, are operating illegally.
“They don’t have enough resources to pursue that. But that is not a justification for any illegal operations. I think NCC should move fast against them,” he advised.