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Understanding the telecoms Automatic Voice Mail service


According to the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Voicemail (VM) is a value-added service, and only those who opt-in should have it.

ALTON explained that the current practice on some networks is that once you call and the recipient doesn’t pick, you get a voice prompt saying that the subscriber is not available, and asking you to record a voice message *after the tone*.

“For the avoidance of doubt, you (as a consumer) are not billed anything, but if you delay, you may be charged for a few seconds, or for the time it takes you to record the message.

“The recipient of the voice mail does not get charged for listening. It is free.


“VM is a value added service and it should only be provisioned for those who expressly request for it. It may be recalled that MNOs reintroduced the VM facility to discourage people who “flash” continuously. Flashing wastes network resources and also degrades QoS reporting. This should not however justify the practise the way it is being done by some networks,” the body stated.

However, ALTON noted that this is not a major “policy issue” within the meaning of Section 23&24 of the NCA which empowers the Minister to formulate “general policy for the communications sector…” (after consultations organised by the NCC!). It is a mere operational/consumer protection issue which the Ministry can simply call NCC’s attention.

“It is a purely consumer related issues that minister refers to as a major policy issue and it also amounts to unnecessary interference by the Minister contrary  to Section 25  subsections 1 & 2 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.”

The term Voicemail was coined by Televoice International (later Voicemail International, or VMI) for their introduction of the first US-wide Voicemail service in 1980. Although VMI trademarked the term, it eventually became a generic term for automated voice services employing a telephone. Voicemail popularity continues today with Internet telephone services such as Skype, Google Voice and ATT that integrate voice, voicemail and text services for tablets and smartphones.

Voicemail systems were developed in the late 1970s by Voice Message Exchange (VMX). They became popular in the early 1980s when they were made available on PC-based boards. In September 2012 a report from USA Today and Vonage claimed that voicemail was in decline. The report said that the number of voicemail messages declined eight percent compared to 2011.

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