Nigeria’s Interconnect fee debt of N20 Million (US$127, 302.65) is a continuing problem as affected operators battle to recover the enormous liability.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned if a solution is not found to the debt crises, it may minimise the gains accumulated by the industry.
The NCC has since issued new guidelines on the right for operators (the applicant) to apply to the NCC for approval to disconnect an interconnected operator (the respondent).
The NCC, through aGuardian Nigeria report, described the reasons for disconnection. They said: “Where the respondent fails to settle its interconnect indebtedness after it becomes due; an interconnection agreement has been terminated in accordance with the terms thereof; there is a fundamental breach of interconnection agreement; where the respondent is engaged in acts contrary to the terms of its license with regards to interconnection.”
Interconnection is described as the “process by which calls from one network are terminated on another network. It is the basis by which telecommunications subscribers are enabled to call other subscribers, regardless of the networks in which they are domiciled”.
Interconnectivity also allows subscribers to SMS and make use of other “value-added services” seamlessly over various networks due to the operator to operator interconnectivity.
The NCC said, however, that it will not consider any disconnection requests unless there is a “subsisting interconnect agreement between both parties duly filed with the commission”. If operators have accurate billing systems that are in line with the NCC’s standard and specifications, it will also not disconnect the operators.
“No operator is permitted to have a billing system that is not type-approved to ensure compliance with the standards and specifications as determined by the commission,” stated the guidelines.
Dr Eugene Juwah, the NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, regards the interconnection debt as strange for Nigeria since the problem does not exist in other jurisdictions.
Dr Juwah has also urged operators to take advantage of the guidelines’ provisions regarding procedure for granting approval for the disconnection of telecommunications operators.
Should disconnection of an Interconnected Exchange Operator materialise due to the operator in question failing to meet the agreed date for payment then the NCC will publish a notice in two of the country’s national newspapers informing all the operates connected to the specific interconnect exchange that a respondent is not able to pay its debt and may be subject to disconnection from the network of the applicant.