NCC targets consumer protection, infrastructure expansion
Having recorded some regulatory strides in 2020, amid economic headwinds occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has highlighted the key areas that will form the fulcrum of its activities this year.
Accordingly, the NCC intends to positively impact the telecoms industry, especially in terms of improved service experiences for holders of the over 208 million active mobile lines in the country.
The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, provided insights into the various regulatory activities to be embarked upon by the Commission this year, with a view to consolidating the achievements of the past five years.
He said there will be a major focus on broadband penetration, consumer protection and empowerment, efficient resource utilisation, and facilitation of fibre infrastructure deployment.
As a Federal Government organization, he said the NCC will put in place, effective planning to achieve results and evidence-based regulatory activities to accelerate industry growth, and has already initiated a robust and strategic planning that will further transform the telecoms ecosystem in 2021.
Directly tied to achieving its regulatory targets in 2021 is the plan to unveil a new five-year strategic vision plan (SVP) that will provide framework for the implementation of an already unveiled Strategy Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024 by the Commission.
Upon the expiration of NCC’s initial SVP anchored on an 8-Point Agenda, the implementation of which has helped the Commission to increase service availability, accessibility and affordability, the NCC has initiated the process for the development of another five-year SVP. Already, the development of the new five-year agenda has reached advanced stage and billed to be unveiled soon.
According to Danbatta, the future SVP will naturally ride on the new SMP 2020-2024 unveiled in June last year. As a visioning document of the Commission for planning, monitoring, analysing and assessment of the Commission to meet its goals and set objectives, the planned SVP and current SMP will be fully leveraged by the NCC for improvement in performance matrix.
It will also aide its efforts in accelerating the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), and the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2020 – 2025 of the Federal Government.
Recall that a very important indicator of the effective implementation of the expired SVP by the NCC was its efforts in achieving and surpassing the 30 per cent broadband penetration set by the Federal Government by 2018, up from about six per cent in 2015. Today, broadband penetration has reached 45.07 per cent as of November 2020, translating to over 86 million broadband subscriptions across 3G and 4G networks in Nigeria.
Last year, the Commission constituted a committee to review the framework for the licensing of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo), and recommend sustainable funding options for effective implementation of the proposed national fibre project, taking into consideration the delays in take-off, change in exchange rate, supply chain and other challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The result of this effort is expected to produce a more robust InfraCo framework that will facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the nooks and crannies of the country, thereby enhancing broadband penetration towards achieving the 70 per cent penetration target of by 2025, increased connectivity and better user experience in 2021 and beyond.
According to Danbatta, “The InfraCo project is dear to the government because of its ability to enhance robust and pervasive broadband infrastructure to drive service availability, accessibility and affordability and we hope, with the cooperation we are getting from the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, will record more inroads in 2021 and beyond with respect to our reviewed InfraCo framework.”
The EVC had, in October, 2020, restated the commitment of the Commission in ensuring that the project delivers maximum benefits for the economy at large, adding that the effective implementation of the InfraCo project and deployment of fifth generation (5G) technology, once the Federal Government gives the approval for deployment, will support the increased connectivity being witnessed and revolutionise the country’s digital ecosystem.
Another area that will receive increased attention this year, according to Danbatta, is in the issue of consumer protection and empowerment. Over the years, the Commission had created multiple channels through which it educates consumers on their rights and privileges, as well as ensures appreciable protection for telecom consumers from unwholesome practices by telecoms licensees and cyber criminals.
So far, the Commission has contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian economy by ensuring that telecom infrastructure enable Nigerians to leverage the Internet, and especially, the social media and other digital platforms to run their daily activities as well as ventilate their views against corrupt practices to ensure good governance in the country.
Further, the number of individuals, businesses and government institutions relying on broadband infrastructure to remain connected for personal and official communication activities within the context of the ongoing measures at containing COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing are projected to increase.
Consequently, the NCC is committed to consumer-centric initiatives that promote digital inclusion and advance government’s digital economy vision in 2021.
Against the backdrop of being ranked highest in terms of compliance to ethics and integrity by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) last year among other sister agencies within and outside the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the NCC said in 2021, it is poised and more committed to regulatory excellence, transparency and ethical standards.
As an independent regulatory agency, the Commission promises to continue to prioritise regulatory activities in the area of raising the bar of quality of service (QoS) across the networks, and advancing its regulatory trial of national roaming and e-SIM.
It also plans to finalise the development of a Regulatory Framework on Virtual Mobile Network Operators (VMNO), increasing stakeholder collaboration with more regulatory agencies and other private and public institutions that are needed to support the Commission’s efforts at deepening connectivity at affordable rates and improved user experiences across the nooks and crannies in Nigeria.
With these, the telecoms sector is expected to continue to play even more significant role in the transformation of the country into a more digital economy.
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