Interconnect Debt: NCC, Glo, MTN Sing Discordant Tunes
A breakdown in mobile communication between 46.6 million Globacom subscribers and MTN network users may persist as both network operators are not making moves to reconcile their differences, investigation by The PUNCH has shown.
Globacom subscribers, in the past one week, have been complaining of difficulty in reaching families and friends on the MTN network.
Checks by our correspondent showed that in the past 12 hours, over 20 complaints had been lodged by Globacom subscribers on the operator’s customer care handles on Twitter and Facebook, over their inability to connect to MTN lines.
Also, it was learnt from sources in the industry that ntel subscribers were also disconnected by MTN.
The Nigerian Communications Commission confirmed on Tuesday that the total interconnect indebtedness of Globacom, Nigeria’s second largest telecom company, to MTN as N4.4bn.
The PUNCH gathered from the regulator and other sources familiar with the matter that the debt burden and the accrued interest over the years had led to the decision to partially disconnect Globacom subscribers from making calls to MTN lines.
Our correspondent learnt that only N500m had been paid by Globacom out of its total interconnect indebtedness to MTN despite series of pleas, meetings and payment deadlines issued to the network operator.
As of December last year, the interconnect debt in the industry stood at N165bn.
Interconnect rate is the price that telecommunications operators pay each other for calls terminating on their networks.
In 2018, the NCC together with stakeholders reviewed the interconnect rates and reach and fixed N3.90 per minute as rates for 2G/3G/4G operators; N4.70 for the LTE operators; while the International Termination Rate of N24.40 was sustained.
The Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Dr Henry Nkemadu, in a telephone interview with our correspondent, said MTN applied to the commission before embarking on the partial disconnection, adding that other network operators were handling their debt professionally.
“If there is any issue of disconnection, it is in line with an agreement reached by the companies. The necessary notices were already given because the indebtedness was getting too high and remember that interconnect indebtedness is not money owed but money already paid for by the customers. We have almost 99 per cent prepaid customers. If they (customers) have already paid for terminating calls, why shouldn’t the operator pay,” he added.
In December 2018, the telecom regulator granted approval to mobile network operators to disconnect other operators for failing to pay their interconnect debt.
In a notification letter sent by the NCC to the affected parties, the commission had asked MTN, Airtel and IHS to disconnect, on a partial basis, services to Globacom, Ntel and some interconnect exchange points.
The President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Mr Olusola Teniola, called on the NCC to introduce an automated settlement scheme to address the rising debt profile in the industry.
According to him, previous attempts to use disconnection of networks as a solution to the problem did not worked.
So far, Teniola said only 25 per cent of the debt had been paid since the last time the NCC issued a warning concerning the level of interconnect debt.
“We again appeal to the government to consider an automatic clearing system,” he said.