The outcry by Nigerians yesterday compelled the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to suspend the planned increase in telecom data tariff.
The directive issued by the NCC to telecom operators would have taken effect today.
Before yesterday’s announcement stopping the planned hike, the Senate called for a halt.
It summoned Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu and NCC Executive Vice Chairman Umar Garba Danbatta.
A statement by NCC’s Director, Public Affairs Director Tony Ojobo said the decision was taken after due consultation with industry stakeholders and the general complaints by consumers across the country.
Ojobo said that the commission had weighed all of these and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.
He said that the regulatory body wrote to the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on Nov. 1, on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after the stakeholder’s consultative meeting of Oct. 19.
According to him, the decision to have a price floor is primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.
“The price floor in 2014 was N3.11k/MB but was removed in 2015. The price floor that was supposed to flag off on December 1, 2016, was N0.90k/MB.
“In taking that decision, the smaller operators were exempted from the new price regime by virtue of their small market share.
“The decision on the price floor was taken in order to protect the consumers who are at the receiving end and save the smaller operators from predatory services that are likely to suffocate them and push them into extinction.
“The price floor is not an increase in price but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators.
“This statement clarifies the insinuation in some quarters that the regulator has fixed prices for data services.
“This is not true because the NCC does not fix prices but provides regulatory guidelines to protect the consumers, deepen investments and safeguard the industry from imminent collapse,” he said.
The director said that before the new suspended price floor of N0.90k/MB, the industry average for dominant operators including MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, EMTS Limited (Etisalat) and Airtel Nigeria Limited was N0.53k/MB.
He added that Etisalat offered N0.94k/MB, Airtel N0.52k/MB, MTN N0.45k/MB and Globacom N0.21k/MB.
The smaller operators/new entrants charge the following: Smile Communications N0.84k/MB, Spectranet N0.58k/MB and NATCOM (NTEL) N0.72k/MB.
Ojobo said that the NCC as a responsive agency of government took into consideration the feelings of the consumers and decided to suspend the new price floor
The Senate asked its Committee on Communications to begin immediate comprehensive investigation into the matter.
The Committee was given one week to report back to the Senate in plenary.
The resolutions followed a motion by Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, (Kebbi South) in which he condemned the planned hike in data tariffs.
Na’Allah said that there was no doubt the hike would further impoverish Nigerians.
Vice Chairman of the Committee on Communications, Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West), described the policy as not only “unholy” but also “unfriendly”.
Adeola assured the Senate that the committee would act on the mandate and report back to it next Tuesday.
He said, “We are up to the task. And I can assure the Senate that we will swing into action immediately. We will invite all the necessary agencies that are involved in this policy that is unholy and unfriendly and get back to the Senate unfailingly on Tuesday.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki said the NCC failed to carry out enough consultations before announcing the policy.
Saraki asked the committee to investigate allegations of non-compliance with laid down regulations by telecoms operators.