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National roaming agreement pegged at three years

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…Service charges, other terms to go through bilateral negotiations
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that national roaming services would not exceed three years from the date of execution of the National Roaming Agreement.

The Commission said it reserved the right to permit parties to renew the National Roaming Agreement for another three years and that further extension would be subjected to its approval.

NCC, in a 34-page document entitled ‘Guidelines on National Roaming’, explained that it made the guidelines in the exercise of its powers in line with Section 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act (2003).

According to the Commission, the guidelines shall apply only to holders of valid licences issued by it, containing a condition that makes the holder eligible to enter into a national roaming service agreement.

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National roaming allows a subscriber to roam freely on a network distinct from the main network, especially in areas where there are no networks. It is like saying a SIM card has no home network but can use any.

The guideline explained that subject to any conditions or restrictions set in the National Roaming Agreement, the host network shall provide the following services to a roamer, upon completion of initial authentication and location updates: voice, SMS, Account Balance Inquiry, Recharge (Prepaid), VAS, Data, USSD and premium shortcodes.

Based, the NCC said the experience of a roamer on the visited network should, as much as possible, be network agnostic.

The telecoms regulator, while elaborating further, revealed that duly authorised service providers should request and negotiate National Roaming Agreements with each other on bilateral and non-discriminatory terms. It said a roaming seeker requesting national roaming services should forward a duly completed Roaming Request Form A contained under Schedule 1 of these Guidelines to the roaming provider.

Thereafter, a roaming provider shall notify the roaming seeker of its approval or rejection of the roaming request, and where the roaming seeker receives no response from the roaming provider within 15 days of its request, the roaming seeker shall immediately notify the Commission in writing, and the NCC shall take necessary steps to ensure the roaming provider responds to the roaming request.

The Commission informed that the charges, terms and conditions for national roaming services shall be through bilateral negotiations and in line with the provisions of the Guidelines. It said National Roaming Agreements shall take into consideration legal aspects of authentication, authorisation and billing of the visiting or roaming subscriber so as not to compromise minimal safety standards such as location update procedures, financial security or warranty procedures in line with GSMA reference documents on roaming services as applicable to national roaming.

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Where a dispute arises during negotiation, NCC said parties shall endeavour to amicably resolve the issues. It, however, stressed that where a resolution is not reached, either party may refer the matter to the Commission for resolution, in line with the provisions of Sections 75 and 76 of the Act and the Dispute Resolution Guidelines. The decision of the Commission in this regard shall be final and binding on parties until set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction.

In the termination of the agreement, NCC explained that a party may request in writing to the Commission for approval to terminate a National Roaming Agreement with the other party on any of the following grounds: bankruptcy, revocation of licence or failure to renew an expired licence, and consistent breach of commercial roaming obligations.

After considering the request for termination, the Commission reserves the right to request parties to provide additional information which would assist it in making a decision; request the defaulting party, where possible, to take remedial steps to avoid termination; or convey its decision within 15 days, either declining the application or granting approval for the applicant to suspend the service.

“Where the service has been suspended for three months and the party against whom notice was issued has not taken satisfactory steps to warrant the reversal of the suspension, the Commission shall approve the final termination of the National Roaming Agreement,” NCC stated.

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