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Subscribers want hitch-free telephony services in 2017




• ALTON assures stakeholders, seeks govt intervention

Subscribers have passionately called on telecommunications service providers in the country to offer them efficient services.Those who spoke with The Guardian bemoaned the state of telecommunications services in 2016, which they adjudged below expected performance.
As at October 2016, the country connected 226 million lines, with 153 million being active telephone users in the country. The country’s teledensity currently stands at 109 per cent.
Meanwhile, telecommunications operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) urged subscribers to be optimistic in 2017. ALTON was however quick to ask the Federal Government to fix the economy and make it functional.
Indeed, from Lagos to Abuja, Ondo to Port Harcourt, Jos to Enugu, Borno to Sokoto, the quality of service, especially from the GSM operators, notably MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat in 2016, according to industry watchers was poor and characterised by increased dropped calls, aborted short message service (SMS), truncated calls, menace of unsolicited SMS, and a host of others.
In fact, a subscriber, Tajudeen Agbede, put it this way, “in 2016, it was as if telecommunications operators conspired to inflict untold pains on over 150 million active GSM subscribers in Nigeria.”
Agbede, a Lagos-based MTN fan, complained that he experienced several drop calls and undelivered SMS in the major part of 2016. He wondered if the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) still monitors operations of the operators.
According to him, drop calls, uncompleted calls, illegal credit deductions and unsolicited SMS have become the order of the day with all the networks.Another subscriber, Mary Adio, a businesswoman and a Globacom subscriber, based in Benin, who spoke to The Guardian on phone, complained of drop calls and connection failures. She lamented that she lost some clients because of poor services from Globacom.
On why she did not explore the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) initiative to jilt Globacom for another networks, she asked: “which of the networks do you think is better? None of them! Some of us have been known with the network, so it’s just not easy to leave the network. We pray that their investment will impact on the networks this year.”
Lamenting the ordeal of poor quality of service, a Zenith bank staff, Kayode Bankole, described the present service quality as a shame, going by the largeness of the Nigerian market.He urged the NCC to be more aggressive in its oversight functions of the industry in 2017, as “over 100 million subscribers in Nigeria are not getting quality for the money they are paying.”
Also, a Barrister, Ken Okechukwu, who claimed to be frustrated by the increasing drop calls threatened to sue both NCC and the telecoms operators in 2017, if services are not improved.Speaking with The Guardian, the President, National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said service quality in 2016 witnessed just marginal improvement, and called on the operators to get back to work and make services better in 2017.
According to him, some of the expectations from the sector in 2017 are to see the NCC board formally inaugurated; withdrawal of the controversial planned Communications Service Tax; no data tariff increment, among others.
Ogunbanjo, who urged NCC to ensure consumer-friendly services in the course of the year, said increasing data tariff will kill small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and prevent many Nigerians from coming online.
ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, noted that generally 2016 was a difficult one for all the sectors of the economy, “without being defensive, the telecoms sector still fared well and better.”
Adebayo, an engineer, said the emotions from subscribers experiences are expected, because “people have seen telecoms services as a part of life. But we should be optimistic because 2017 will be better.”
According to him, “2017 will be better because of the 2016 lessons we have learnt, which were across board.”The ALTON Chairman, while appealing to Federal Government, said there are still challenges that must be addressed for things to take proper shape in the sector and the economy generally.
According to Adebayo, the issue of foreign exchange must be addressed quickly, “most companies in the sector run on forex. Even international calls, I mean roaming services terminating on the networks in Nigeria are dollar-based; it has become difficult settling that area. Procurement of equipment for the sector for service roll-out are also foreign exchange based. So, where all these are missing, it becomes difficult to get things into shape. But despite all these, the operators are still investing. The appeal is to the Federal Government to consider telecoms as a priority sector that must have access to foreign exchanged because of the recurring and non-recurring expenditures that are dollar-based.”

Adebayo, who said if all these challenges persisted, Nigeria might be left behind, also urged to Federal Government to fix power, stressing that operators contend seriously with vandals and theft of generating sets.
The ALTON boss, who said the industry, appreciated greatly the perseverance of the subscribers, appealed to them not to isolate telecoms sector from the national economy.

He stressed that telecoms have been the infrastructure other sectors of the economy relied on to thrive, “more support is required as we go in the year. This is even as services will definitely improve across board in 2017.”    

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