Business Hilights
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VAS licencees seek NCC’s release of long codes access, resolution of debt crisis

Operators of Value Added Service (VAS) in the nation’s telecoms sector have again called on the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to allocate without further delays long codes for dealers.

The long codes are known as a virtual mobile number or dedicated phone number. It is a simple alternative to using a personal mobile number, which enables one to seamlessly send and receive messages. They are the quickest and cheapest dedicated number solution.

However, industry analysts have observed that despite the high growth of mobile subscribers, the specific market of mobile VAS services, still need to be well structured for sustainable development and improve its contribution to the growth of the communication sector.

This is as out of the five major GSM services providers, one of them (name with held) has been described as a chronic debtor with very surreptitious method of paying debts owed Value Added Service (VAS) providers in Nigeria.

VAS providers are now going out of business due to the tortuous experiences they have in retiring their money from the GSM network who they rely on their networks to traffic their messages.

Hyacinth Anucha is the Coordinator, Value Added Services (VAS) division of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

In an exclusive interview in Lagos, he told Business Hilights that because “I am the Coordinator, Value Added Services, I have a position and job to do and I speak for the group I serve”.

Giving a graphic detail of how the network is frustrating VAS providers, he said “whenever payment is due for a VAS provider, the network always snob every effort made by VAS operators to get their money”.

“The network will delay the payment for up to two years and when serious pressure is applied, the network will either yank you off of call for renegotiation of your money you have worked for only to cut it down.

“They will not stop at that; rather they will issue you with a credit note and further force who will buy it on you for you to get your money. When you seat with the appointed company, the company will mercilessly cut off more than 15 per cent from the same money you have been trailing for more than two years.

“This is killing VAS business and we at ATCON think that something must be done to the network by the regulator to stop this surreptitious business policy.

He further explained that the network will first place you on a particular payment batch before they will start to drive you up and down, killing your time and resources.

According to him, “If at any point you argue with them on why your money will be cut beyond the real debt, they will overrun you and leave you to suffer while they attend to others who are ready to ‘play the surreptitious game’ with them.

“Again, by that abandonment, your batch has gone and you need to wait for another round that may or may not include your batch unless you are ready to do as they say which is evil in all ramifications.

“This is too bad and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) needs to investigate this in order to stop the practice, because it is forcing many VAS providers to go out of business or at best, abandon the network for others.

Explaining more on how the regulator, NCC is delaying businesses for his members, Anucha said “We have a problem with NCC in the last two and half years. We have paid of a license since then, but it has not been given to us. It is frustrating because the duration of the license is running down”.

“Let me explain it very well. There are two licenses VAS providers always go for. The first one is Content Provision License, using short code which the networks are holding our member to ransom in debt clearance and the second one is Long Number, popularly called Special Numbering Service License.

“In the first one, we have over 100 licensees while we have about six licensees in the second one.

Currently, the only company using the second one is Alpha Technology because they have gotten their own numbering codes while the rest five have licenses but no numbering codes from NCC and when we ask, NCC will tell us we are working on it.

“A license that will last for five years and there is no number to work with, tell me how that investor will survive.

“The question now is for how long will it take NCC work on it having collected payments since two and half years ago? Does it mean that our licenses have started running even when we have not gotten the codes to work with which we have paid for?.

“We are calling on NCC to release our codes which we have paid for and that our license duration be extended so as to complete the five year term of the license whenever the codes are given to us by the regulator. Only this can be seen as fair play in the process,” Anucha, Coordinator of VAS at ATCON noted.

But in a telephone interview with the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo weekend, he said he will find out the cause of the delay at the relevant department.

He however allayed the fears of the licensees, saying “The life of every license starts not just when payment is made, but when all necessary materials coming with the license are given to the licensee by the Commission”.

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