NCC may review mobile number portability scheme

… Begins compliance monitoring on SIM deactivation

… Defaulting operators risk N200,000 sanction

ABUJA – Ten weeks into the launch of the mobile number portability (MNP) in the country, there are indications that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may review the various technicalities considered to be hindering a faster adoption of the scheme, The Guardian has learnt.

Indeed, MNP, which was launched on April 22 in Nigeria, making the country the 64th nation to adopt it globally, seems not to be recording expected success.

Though the NCC is still silent about the actual figure of subscribers that have switched networks about two months after launch, operators have lamented the traffic lull in the process.

juwahApart from issues around the process of porting, including the 90-day stay duration on a particular network before any other migration, the 48-hour processing period to port; poor awareness, especially in the hinterlands; need for physical presence before porting; and the preference for dual and multi-SIM mobile devices, seem to be hindering the scheme.

According to an NCC source who spoke with The Guardian, MNP technicalities will be revisited and probably altered for accelerated adoption, “because the scheme is needed in Nigeria.”

Indeed, at a post-event interview in Lagos at the weekend, NCC’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Services, Josephine Amuwa, confirmed that there may be a review of the MNP rules as being canvassed in different quarters.

Amuwa, who also hinted that any operator found hindering the process would be fined N200,000 per subscriber, noted that MNP is a key facilitator of consumer choice and effective competition in the telecommunications environment.

“The challenge is that people tend to believe that since they can easily buy a SIM, they don’t need to port. That is wrong, because a new SIM brings a new identity and nobody knows you with that, but with porting, you will retain your number on any network. So, what we are saying is that Nigerians should port; they should not go and buy new SIMs because a service provider is not satisfying them. On the technicalities and rules, we have set up a steering committee working on the rules, we meet monthly. At the next meeting, we are going to see based on their recommendations if there is the need to change some of the rules. If they say consumers are not porting because of the rules and technicalities, among others, there are things that can be changed, because they are not cast in stone.

“A defaulting operator risks the sum of N200,000 per subscriber discovered to have been denied porting”, she stated.

In a related development, the commission has started compliance monitoring on the deactivation of unregistered SIMs, and promises separate sanctions on defaulters.

In a letter of July 2, 2013 addressed to the operators, a copy of which was obtained by The Guardian, the NCC stated that subsequent to its April 15, 2013 Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulation 2011 and subsequent shift of deadline to June 30, 2013, the commission wished to inform the operators of no extension.

In the letter, NCC directed all operators to forward to it a summary of the registered and active lines on their networks as of June 30, 2013. It also directed that details of the unregistered and deactivated lines as at deadline date should be forwarded to it, which, according to it, is consistent with section 15(2) of the NCC’s Regulation of Telephone Subscribers Regulations 2011.

The regulator also insisted that the mobile operators must deactivate all unregistered SIM cards on their networks immediately, saying that deactivation in this case, and consistent with section 1 of the NCC’s Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations 2011, means that all unregistered SIM cards are disallowed full access to the networks, including the ability to make and receive calls, to send and receive SMS and other range of services usually provided by the network.

According to the letter signed on behalf of NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman by the Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, U.A.S. Maska, the operators are also mandated to provide a firm confirmation that the unregistered lines have been fully deactivated in line with the provisions of the regulations.

NCC insisted that without prejudice to its requirements and consistent with Regulation 13(4) of its Registration of Telephone Subscribers Registration 2011, all operators are to forward on a weekly basis thereafter, details of the registration of the biometric information and other personal information of new lines registered to the commission for entry into the central database.

“Please note that the commission has commenced compliance monitoring and if any unregistered SIM cards are found to be active on your networks, the commission shall invoke its powers under Regulation 19 and 20 of the Registration of Subscribers Regulations 2011 and impose the maximum fine on your company without recourse to you”, the letter stated.

Meanwhile, while speaking on legal and regulatory issues in MNP at a workshop for judges on legal issues in telecommunications, Amuwa said that the structure of the telecommunications market determines to a large extent the behaviour of the operators and also influences the performance of the market with respect to profitability and efficiency.

According to her, MNP is introduced into the sector in order to deepen the telecommunications market in terms of service delivery, innovations and improvement in the quality of service.

Amuwa listed the determinants of a successful MNP regime to include sound regulatory frame-work; efficiency of the system; simple porting process; an efficient subscriber information database; cost effectiveness; funding and consumer awareness.

At the workshop, the Administrator, National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Umaru Eri, noted that the MNP was chosen as a topic because among other innovations, it would generate some legal issues for determination by the courts in a few days ahead. 

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