The claim by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) officials that poor service delivery by the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) operators is caused by imported “fake, unwholesome and substandard telephone handsets from China,” is not only baseless, it is laughable. NCC, the regulatory authority in the telecoms sector (and other regulatory bodies for that matter) should really do more than cover up the inadequacies of the service providers who are ever ready to take advantage of consumers.
With 154 million connected lines, 144 million of them active according to released figures, in a little over a decade of service, the country has come a long way. What is regrettable however is the service delivery, which is clearly inversely proportional to the growth of the sector, despite promises to the contrary by the providers. The NCC, despite claims of working hard at quality and transparent service delivery, also seems content with inadequate supervision.
Just how did the NCC come about the connection between fake phones and quality service delivery by GSM operators? Assuming there are users with substandard phones, how about smart handset users – and they are in millions – who use high quality brands and are not enjoying value for money in their contracts with the providers?
The current connectivity and tariff/billing problems are beyond merely referring people to NCC website for approved list of hand-held phones licensed for use in the country or to embrace number portability. For instance, a subscriber has no point carrying around multiple mobile telephones if he or she can get an efficient service from any of the GSM providers.
In other climes where consumer protection is taken seriously, relevant agencies like the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) will make it a priority to stop influx of those fake phones into the country or invoke the relevant laws to prosecute infractions.
Rather than bemoan the influx of substandard phones, NCC, either working alone or in conjunction with regulatory agencies, can help solve the problem. One way is to get mobile telephone manufacturers to set up plants here in Nigeria to ensure quality control and improved services if actually that is the source of poor service delivery. As a matter of fact, the service providers cannot do much on their own to tackle handsets’ usage even though it is their reputation on quality service that is called to question.
The GSM technology has changed lives of the citizens and the bar is being raised every day. The volume of mobile phones in circulation in Nigeria alone within a short time says volumes about the invention in daily life. The International Data Corporation’s figures show that hundreds of millions of mobile phones were shipped by vendors in the first quarter of this year alone.
Growth in teledensity (the percentage of connected lines in relation to the population in a given period of time) has been phenomenal. Figures also indicate that in a given year between January 2012 and same month in 2013, 18.3 million lines were added to users’ subscriber base in the country. The momentum will undoubtedly be sustained and will likely put the pressure still on the operators. In essence, the current erratic services are not going to go away in a hurry.
The implication of all this is that NCC has to do more of its oversight functions. Consumer protection organisations have to ensure that subscribers get value for money if they would continue to remain relevant. Telecoms operators have no excuse for the shoddy services in Nigeria today. They are in business and have a duty to render quality service all the time.
Source: The Guardian.
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