NCC Summons Telcos Over Tariff Hike Request

6th May 2024

Telecom sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has invited operators for dialogue over demand for end-user tariff hikes for calls, data and other services, according to an inside source.

According to the source, the regulator and operators would weigh the options, so that it would be a win-win for all the stakeholders.

“We hope the conversation will be fruitful this time. We had engaged the NCC some years ago and it appeared we were on the same page but the regulator refused to acquiesce to our demand for political reasons. You know telephony is very important to every Nigerian. So, the authorities were scared an increase in tariff could backfire. Since the government could remove fuel subsidies and the heavens did not fall, it should allow the operators to increase tariffs or else the industry will die. Every other sector of the economy has hiked service costs. The Bankers Committee comprising the chief executive officers of the bank would sit without recourse to anyone, arbitrarily hiking lending costs. The electricity tariff which accounts for 50 per cent of our running cost has been increased without consultation with end users,” the source said.

Meanwhile, telecom operators have started moves to engage with subscribers to get their buy-in into the new campaign to increase tariffs.

The move came after the operators met with the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, in Abuja.

According to a source familiar with the meeting, the minister asked the operators to first engage with their customers and get their understanding of the issues involved.

President of Association of Telephone, Cable TV and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS-Nigeria), Prince Sina Bilesanmi, in a telephone interview at the weekend, confirmed that the operators, through their body, Association of Licensed Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), scheduled a meeting with the leadership of the subscriber body.

“Yes, it is true that we have been invited for a meeting with ALTON this week over the developments in the telecom sector. We hopefully will attend the meeting and engage in meaningful discussions with them. The relationship among the operators, subscribers and regulator is supposed to be mutual. No one should take any of the three for a ride,” he said.

It would be recalled that the operators, via a joint statement, sought regulatory nod to hike tariffs to reflect the cost of doing business.

Acting under the aegis of ALTON and the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in the statement urged the Federal Government to give them the imprimatur to charge what they described as a cost-reflective tariff for services rendered.

“Despite the adverse economic headwinds, the telecommunications industry remains the only industry yet to review its general service pricing framework upward in the last 11 years, primarily due to regulatory constraints. For a fully liberalized and deregulated sector, the current price control mechanism, which is not aligned with economic realities, threatens the industry’s sustainability and can erode investors’ confidence. ATCON and ALTON call upon the government to facilitate a constructive dialogue with industry stakeholders to address pricing challenges and establish a framework that balances consumers’ affordability with operators’ financial viability,” the operators said, adding that telecommunications infrastructure development required substantial investments in network expansion, maintenance and technology upgrades”, it stated.