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Faith in the operational excellence and regulatory efficiency that have become the marks of Africa’s foremost regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), was demonstrated recently when a delegation from the Congo-Brazzaville Telecommunications Regulations Authority (CTRA) visited the NCC on a benchmarking tour. The delegation from the central African nation purposively paid a scheduled visit to NCC, essentially to understudy the latter’s policies, practices and programmes that have made it a model telecommunications regulatory authority on the Continent and beyond.
The Congolese team led by CTRA’s Network Director, Benjamin Mouandza, spent three days at the NCC Head Office in Abuja, where it was exposed to key result-oriented regulatory activities, frameworks, programmes and policies of NCC, with the objective to explore how such operational frameworks could be adapted by the African nation noted for its huge rainforest reserves.
In the letter written to the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Congloese regulator had indicated interest to gain more insights into three areas of NCC’s regulatory activities, namely, management of issues associated with Quality of Service (QoS), SIM Boxing and Call Masking, as well as telecom equipment type-approval process.
In response to the request, Danbatta had graciously accepted to host the team and further directed relevant departments of NCC, including Special Duties (SD); Technical Standards and Network Integrity (TSNI); and the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement (CME) directorates to interact with the team to provide necessary information sharing that may be useful to the Congolese counterpart.
Addressing the CTRA team, the NCC’s Director, TSNI, Bako Wakil, spoke extensively on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) institued by NCC on QoS and how these KPIs are measured and monitored by the Commission toward ensuring improved service delivery to the Nigeria’s ever-growing telecoms consumers. He said this also helped to improve Quality of Experience (QoE) of the consumers.
On type-approval process, Wakil stated that the Commission had developed a rigorous type-approval process to ensure that telecoms equipment, including terminal devices, manufactured in line with international standards and specifications are brought into the country. The “NCC is serious about type-approval process like other processes, because non-type approved devices and equipment which are also not manufactured to international standards and specifications have negative implications for quality of service delivery on the networks,” he said.
Wakil also spoke extensively, to the admiration of the Congolese team, on call masking and highlighted measures the NCC had put in place to address the menace. He described call masking as “the practice of sending international calls to an operator but disguising the calls as if they were local by sending the calls on the local interconnect route with a local number in the national numbering plan instead of the original international calling number.”
In a related presentation to the visiting team on SIM boxing fraud and efforts being taken by the NCC to combat the menace, NCC’s Director, CME, Ephraim Nwokonneya, spoke on the problems created by fraudulent practice of SIM Boxing, including threat to national security, loss of revenue to service providers and the government. Additionally, he asserted the anti-competitive practices associated with such acts among licensees as well as the general economic implications so evident in revenue loss.
However, Nwokonneya itemised solutions to SIM Boxing fraud from a regulatory perspective. He declared that regulators can deploy anti-SIM boxing and call masking solutions, be proactive and effective in monitoring and enforcement, collaboration with the industry and law enforcement agencies, capacity building through training and skill acquisition programmes, as well as the review of the Enforcement Regulations and enabling laws.
More importantly, Nwokonneya told the Congolese telecoms regulator team that collaboration between the regulator and the industry is required to effectively combat the menace of SIMBox Fraud, Call Masking and Call Refiling in conjunction with deployment of technological solution and well trained staff.
From the presentations, it was made clear that the scale of call masking and SIMBoxing has been on the downward decline in Nigeria while the number of complaints from subscribers on incorrectly displayed calling numbers has also reduced substantially. To prove that NCC processes emplaced to combat the menace are succeeding, Nwokonneya stated that there has been a significant and noticeable improvement in the display of correct international calling numbers into Nigeria networks.
The NCC Directors also reiterated that the Commission is also taking strategic actions on SIM Registration, the National Identification Number (NIN) and the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) linkage policy. The NCC team informed the visitors that a maximum of four SIM numbers are permissible to be registered per subscriber per network requirement. This is another measure deployed by the NCC to tackle SIMBoxing which usually requires multiple SIMs to flourish.
The NCC team emphasised that the combination of regulatory action and deployment of technology solutions have helped to put the menace of call masking and SIMBoxing in the Nigeria’s telecoms sector under check.
Commenting on the benefits of the visit, CTRA’s Mouandza, said the choice made by the Congolese regulator to visit NCC on a benchmarking tour has been worthwhile. “We have come to understand how the regulator in Nigeria has been handling some salient regulatory issues and matters in the country as it relates to telecoms. In the course of this visit, I can say that our objective has been achieved. The experience has been very rich, we have learnt many things. We thank the EVC and his team for accepting to host us. We are more positioned now to replicate some of the things we have learnt in our telecoms market back home,” he said.
The Congolese officials had practical demonstrations of the issues earlier discussed, especially the nature of technologies that have been deployed by the NCC to independently and remotely monitor, measure and validate QoS on the networks of mobile operators in the country.
It will be recalled that the visit by the Congolese team came barely a month after the NCC hosted officials from Sierra Leone’s National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), who equally visited NCC to benchmark the Nigeria’s telecom regulator’s policies, programmes and regulatory activities.
Over the years, the NCC has constantly received delegations from telecoms regulators in Africa and this trend has remained a major boost for Nigeria’s global ranking as a model in telecommunications regulation. Suffice it to say, that, these benchmarking visits have eloquently reinforced NCC’s leadership status in operational efficiency, collaborative partnership, and commitment to intra-African solidarity in the telecommunications sphere.