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‘NCC seems helpless in ending call masking, simboxing amongst networks’

A number of telecoms stakeholders’ are beginning nurse the feeling that the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may be lacking the leadership will and discipline to end prevalence of call masking and simboxing fraud currently hobbling the industry.
Call masking/refiling is basically when an international call is terminated in Nigeria as a local number. The perpetrators have ulterior motive of profiting from price differential between international and local calls termination.
Also, a SIM box has capacity to receive and transmit calls undetected. However, the challenge is that these SIM boxes are never type-approved by the Commission, a clear indication that they are being used illegally in the country”, he said.
Business Hilights can recall that the criminal started trending since September 2016 when the NCC reviewed and implemented the termination rate for international inbound traffic from N3.90/min to N24.40/min.
Besides, what is happening is a clear indication that some unscrupulous elements want to continue to fraudulently profit from the earlier lopsidedness in the international termination rate which we had before the 2016 review.
In his presentation at the 85th edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament held in Lagos Thursday last week, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta who was represented by Mrs. Felicia Onwuegwuchulam, Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, noted that the industry suffers $3bn revenue loss to, call masking, simboxing.
Whereas he agreed that call masking is being perpetrated with small movable devices called SIM boxes, which are electronic boxes loaded with SIM numbers, he was silent on raising sanctions but only averred that continuous awareness will resolve the crime which analysts objected.
Though he disclosed that as part of its zero tolerance for communication fraud and its determination to stamp out the practice in the industry, the NCC in collaboration with different stakeholders and security agencies held series of meetings which led to the suspension of six interconnect exchange licensees in February, 2018.
However, he stated that despite the regulatory actions, masking of calls has persisted as telecoms consumers continue to express outrage over call masking much as security agencies constantly put pressure on the commission to find lasting solution to the menace.
Besides, during panel discussion, representative from Airtel, Glo, Smile and MTN argued that the issue of call masking and SIM boxing, apart from affecting the revenues of different Telecom companies, also threatens the security of Telecom consumers and the country.
Observers say considering the continuity of the crime by veiled networks, the best bet will be to wield the big stick continuously until sanity is restored.
According one of the stakeholders who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, “To be sincere, I think the current NCC management seems to be lacking ideas on the veracity of sanctions that when announced, will stamp out these crimes from the industry”.
“It hard to believe that after sanctioning about six companies, the act is still occurring and the NCC cannot come up with weighty sanctions.
“Regulatory roles in issues of security do not need long gestation period to slam sanctions unless you do not have the prerequisite leadership will and discipline.
Continuing, the expert decried that up till now, kidnappers are still making use of unregistered SIMs to operate freely and these SIMs are very easy to track, but the Commission is just relaxing on what they should do.