Nigerians lament high cost of data, want FG’s intervention

Many subscribers to telecommunications services in the country have been bemoaning their fate as the cost of using the services as currently being provided by the telecoms operators have become almost prohibitive as those who spoke on the issue maintained that it is becoming more difficult to keep pace with high costs of telecoms services.

Of particular concern to many users of telecoms services is the issue of broadband services also known as data. Most respondents on the topic stated that it is rather too expensive to subscribe to data service nowadays, stating that it was not like this before with many wondering why it would be so, especially coming after the advent of Coronavirus in the country.

A subscriber, Mr Adewale Iyiola, who is based in Lagos, told the Nigerian Tribune that he used to spend just N1000 on data per month but that suddenly he discovered that the N1000 subscription was not enough anymore and that he had to increase it to N1500. Iyiola further stated that again, he realised that the N1500 was not enough for a month’s subscription and therefore increased it N2000 from the initial N1000 he used to expend monthly. He disclosed that he doesn’t visit sites that consume data like twitter, Youtube, Instagram among others.

The same storyline runs through other respondents who complained bitterly about the high cost data services in the country.

Mr Fidelis Okoro told Nigerian Tribune during a chat that he could not explain his consternation concerning the rate at which the cost of data is going on the high side. Okoro revealed that not only that data evaporates easily, but that at times, data will just disappear from one’s handset without any explanation from the operators.

According to Okoro, he thought it was his operator that was the only culprit until he tried almost all other operators only to discover that they are the same. He wondered why it has become so difficult for Nigerians to enjoy such services without breaking the banks. He called on the Federal Government and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to come to the rescue of Nigerians over this issue.

While begging the Federal Government to intervene in this matter, another subscriber, Mrs Mudasiru Omobolanle, said it shouldn’t be this COVID-19 era that services like internet subscription should be out of reach of the people. According to her, once the N1000 she subscribes to finishes, she would not bother to re-subscribe again for the remaining part of the month. Like Okoro, she also thought it was peculiar to her operator but discovered painfully that it cuts across all the operators.

Efforts to get reactions from some of the operators, particularly MTN and Airtel proved abortive as of the time of filing this report.

But in his reaction, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said the usage of data should be made to reflect the cost of doing business in Nigeria.

He said: It is apparent that the usage of data to perform online operations and partake in online virtual meetings will require innovative pricing that reflects the costs of doing business in Nigeria.

“Latest statistics demonstrate an opportunity for data pricing to be affordable to those struggling to make ends meet, however, it is also important to note that Nigeria’s data prices is one of the cheapest on the continent and with the recent recommendations made in the Nigerian National Broadband (NBC) Plan 2020-25, a target of N390 per 1GB per month can be achieved by 2025.

“The obstacles to reduction of unbundled data pricing are multi-faceted and require a multi-stakeholder engagement to put heads together to resolve the recurring issues of multiple and double taxation, high costs of doing business which impacts on our costs of rendering data services. With the introduction of full adoption of CNI and harmonisation of RoWs across the country, there is every likelihood that reduced costs will be reflected in data prices going forward.”

Also reacting, the telecoms industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it has put many measures in place to ensure telcos customers are not exploited.

The statement signed by the commission’s head of public affairs, Ikechukwu Adinde, said: “the commission has put in place measures aimed at protecting the data subscription of Nigerian telecom consumers over time. These include: the issuance of direction on data rollover. The commission did this strictly in the interest of the consumers as research shows that this practice is not obtainable in other regulatory jurisdictions.

Furthermore, the commission also issued a direction on forced migration and auto-renewal, which mandates service providers to offer options to the subscriber to choose to continue to enjoy an existing service or not.

“Some of the recent ongoing/concluded studies include cost- ASUS study for the retail broadband and data services in Nigeria, implementation framework for accounting separation and cost-based study for the determination of mobile termination rate. With regard to data depletion, consumers are encouraged to report such experience first to the affected service provider, and it is the expectation of the commission that, consistent with the industry consumer code of practice, the operator will deal with such complaints appropriately.”

 

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