Friday, April 12Inside Business Africa

Over 1.11m subscribers use portability services

Seven years into its launch in Nigeria, over 1.111,197 subscribers have so far utilised the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service in the country.

This figure was given by the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, in Lagos, at the webinar organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

Recall that Nigeria joined the rest of the world on April 22, 2013, to introduce MNP in the telecoms industry, aimed at improving competition in the sector.MNP is the process that enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one network carrier to another.

Although Danbatta was silent on which of the operators have benefited more from the MNP, he however disclosed that the initiative has enhanced service quality, “as no operator is happy losing subscribers to competition.”

He also informed that since the introduction of the Do Not Disturb (DND) Code 2442, subscribers have been utilizing the service to block unwanted text messages and tele-marketing activities.

Danbatta said in the first year of its launch in 2015, “500, 000 subscribers activated it. The number increased to 21,704,061, rose to 22,196,712 in 2019, and 22,722, 366 in 2020.”

However, the rising DND activation has continued to shrink the market potential for Value Added Service (VAS) providers in the country, as more Nigerians now have the power to reject every unsolicited message by simply sending DND to 2442.

Already, the VAS sub-sector, whose worth was ₦300 billion as at 2018, dropped to N79 billion by October 2019, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The VAS operators render services such as caller ring back tunes, health tips, daily motivational quotes, sport/entertainment news and the like, which are delivered to mobile subscribers, who are charged through deduction of their call credit.

In a chat with The Guardian, National Coordinator at Wireless Application Service Provider’ Association of Nigeria (WASPAN), Chijioke Ezeh, said there is serious confusion in the VAS industry, has led to the decline the sector is experiencing.He said: “there are no clear cut lines as to what to do and not to do, who is in charge of what, etc. This means that there are a lot of grey areas, which leave room for conflicting interpretations. In such a scenario it is very difficult to achieve any sustainable success.”

He stressed that the VAS industry is in a state of decline, adding: “the perceived lull is both good and bad news. The industry has less bad news to report, the telcos lose billions in revenue, Nigerians lose access to digital information and entertainment, VAS providers shut down and Nigerian graduates lose jobs while the regulator mulls what next to do. So yeah, there’s been a lull.”

While the DND remains a challenge, Ezeh, pointed out that the whole idea of bringing an aggregator into the mix, made a simple problem complex. “At this stage, with initially sighted value already shaven off and with only hard work left to be done to re-grow from nothing, the inviting aggregator position is looking bare and may be a stakeholder position some may want to just hand over (like brokers) to the telcos for whatever little share they can get. Problem is, though…100 per cent of zero is yet zero.

He stressed that incessant introduction of service-impacting directives has affected the VAS industry negatively. “Even when withdrawn, they leave a trail of long term damages.”

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