10% Interconnect Debt Cleared By Telecoms Debtors
There are indications that telecommunications operators have started paying up their interconnect debt following the disconnection notices issued to them by creditors in the industry.
It was gathered from reliable sources in the industry that up to 10 per cent of the estimated N180bn interconnect debt that had built up for over 15 years, had been paid from January till date.
The President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Mr Olusola Teniola, said the association had commenced engagement with the commission to ensure interconnect charges were paid automatically going forward.
He said, “The NCC will coordinate with ATCON in establishing a system that will allow automatic reconciliation. We are now engaging with the NCC for technical presentations.”
ATCON had advocated for an automated settlement scheme that would compel operators to set aside a percentage of their daily recharge card sales into a settlement account that would be used every month to handle their interconnect and facility obligations. The Nigerian Communications Commission in December had granted approval to mobile network operators to disconnect other debtor operators for failing to pay up their interconnect debt estimated to be N180bn.
NCC had asked MTN, Airtel and IHS to disconnect, on a partial basis, services to Globacom, Ntel and interconnect exchange points including Breeze, Exchange, Solid, Medallion and Niconnx.
The affected operators were given a maximum of 21 days, to make amends or risk disconnections.
Despite the disconnection notice published in newspapers in the country, the NCC through its Executive Commissioner for Stakeholder Management, Mr Sunday Dare, gave the assurance that subscribers would not be disconnected as a result of the notice.
Dare clarified that the approval given by the NCC was not for any network to disconnect subscribers but for some creditor networks to restrict services to debtor networks.
He stated, “The NCC is a consumer-centric regulator; the protection of our consumers and the sustainability of the industry are the primary drivers of our activities. So in this case, even before we granted the permission for disconnection, we had put some very stringent safety valves in place to protect consumers and ensure that they continue to enjoy uninterrupted service while we address the very serious issue of indebtedness in the industry.”
“Over the years, the industry has been plagued with the very serious problem of interconnect and facility indebtedness. Some operators have racked up huge debts to others and have simply refused to pay. Now, we understand that there are ecosystem issues affecting all operators and we are daily working with all stakeholders to resolve these issues, but the level of indebtedness in the industry is at an embarrassingly high level, and the whole telecoms industry is at risk of failure if we do not act.”