By Cyril Ilayah
The Association of Lienced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), has urged the Nigerian government to bail out telecom companies in the country over the N165 billion interconnect debts they owned themselves.
The bailout, according to ALTON should come through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), arguing that will remove the pressure on the telecom companies so they can invest and expand their network and ultimately boost services across Nigeria.
“We are advocating bail out bailout for the settlement of the interconnect indebtedness as a way forward because if you enforce payment by force many operators may go under,” said Head, Operations at ALTON, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga in an interaction with ITPulse.
Gbolahan noted that the cost of infrastructure deployment in Nigeria is high, with many people showing preference for Over-The-Top calls instead of voice calls but preferred to use OTT. “Now operators want to expand, it will be at a cost, they will maintain the existing infrastructure at a cost, they will also pay salaries, yet people are not making enough calls,” he added.
Telecom companies in Nigeria are enmeshed in a N165billion interconnect debt, a situation, NCC, the country’s telecom regulator admitted is worrisome and capable of eroding some of the gains of the telecom industry.
Speaking at an interactive session with Journalists recently in Abuja, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta said: “The NCC is worried about the accumulated huge debts from interconnectivity, which currently stood at over N165 billion and we have summoned operators and advised them to pay up their interconnect debt promptly. But be that as it may, no operator can disconnect another operator on the ground of interconnect debt, except by the express permission of NCC.”
He admitted that some operators are heavily indebted to others over interconnect termination fees, but the NCC’s position is that those owing interconnect fees must pay such fees without further delay.
The former University Lecturer also explained that interconnect debt is made of two components: the facility and infrastructure components, emphasizing that when calls are terminated on other networks, the networks where the calls are terminated must be paid their termination fees.