‘Medallion has enhanced business profitability of operators’ – Ike Nnamani

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Ike Nnamani, CEO of Medallion Limited, an indigenous interconnect clearinghouse based in Lagos speaks with IT EDGE NEWS,Anthony Nwosu, on the business of interconnectivity in Nigeria, Nigeria’s VAS challenges, and the industry high ‘operator2operator’ indebtedness, the plight of mobile VAS providers in the country and expansion in other ECOWAS countries.

 

 

Medallion has been in the business of network interconnectivity for over a decade. Has there been an improvement in our interconnecting clearing system?

When it comes to interconnectivity, we can see a lot of improvements. The areas we see improvement is in the area of establishing interconnection. It used to take a period of one year to three years before you establish any form of interconnection for a new entrant. But as it stands today, once the decision to interconnect has been made, it only takes a few weeks and a maximum of three weeks to establish interconnection. This is a clear departure from what was applicable.  This means that new services are offered to the industry at a faster time. We drastically reduced call challenges, when you route your calls through Medallion because we are an aggregator house. We are an aggregation point, we ensure that our platform is technology neutral, be it GSM, CDMA, LTE or any form of communication, it doesn’t matter to us here in Medallion. We ensure that telcos and other carriers have a seamless connection thereby reducing the operating expenditures  (OpEx) such as frequently upgrading their networks and also saves them work time. The industry has moved forward, the cost of maintaining interconnection has been greatly reduced based on the network of Medallion.

 

Inamani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You were at TERF, an ATCON event, where the issue of indebtedness was raised by VAS operators and they accused telcos of short-changing them while NCC, the regulator stands aloof. What is your take on the issues raised?

Personally, I feel very sorry for VAS firms. What VAS providers have been going through, in all honesty, isn’t fair. Some of the operators don’t want to play by the rules. The major operators have had a relationship which in my own opinion isn’t fair. This is affecting the level of indebtedness in the industry. We always advise these VAS firms to channel their traffic via Medallion interconnect clearing system, but they wouldn’t. If they had done this by channeling these traffic to our system, we will settle their interconnection debts that might arise.  The services they offer, we can give connectivity to the VAS providers and we keep records of the transactions. We do a global settlement, we don’t isolate operators, we pay from a global standpoint. The issue of the dispute will also be resolved because of the VAS firms, if they channel their traffic via Medallion, it is Medallion that will pay them not VAS operators. These are the areas we could have helped them and should be helping them. The role of the regulator is to ensure that no players suffer in the industry and we commend that. The VAS firms are suffering because they choose to maintain a peer to peer relationship with the telcos.

 

Data warehousing and Big Data are the next frontiers, what is the role of Medallion in this space?

As you know, our switch centers are the most interconnected facilities in the country. All the international fibres, metro fibres, .ng, and a host of other local hosting firms. We have most of the fibre optic network terminating in our facilities. The Nigerian Internet Exchange is being hosted in Medallion. We will continue to expand across the country, our goal is not only to ensure that data is being hosted in the country by getting these data closer to the subscribers but also we hope that the data will be cheaper. This is one of the core activities we are involved with this year.

 

OTT is a game changer in the industry and Nigerians have come to embrace OTT as a means of getting calls made, especially long haul calls.  How has this affected your business as a clearing house?

There is no subscriber today in Nigeria that can use OTT without data. These data come from telcos and they give data to subscribers for a fee. So, the telcos are already getting paid for this. What happens is that people have to change their business model to be in tune with the evolving technology. This is what the telecommunication firms must come up with rather than complaining or trying to stop it. They can look for other ways to monetize OTT usage rather than fighting against technology. Telcos cannot win a fight against technology. The option is that telcos must come up with ways to be in business.

 

 

Collocation is one of the things that interconnection centres like yours offer. What is the role of Medallion in this?

We are already doing that, all the telecommunication firms in Nigeria have a pop in Medallion and it is a place that they have connection and interface with their clients. What we are trying to do is that we are expanding to other cities across the country beyond Lagos and Abuja

 

Local IT firms in the Nigeria are venturing into other African countries. Has Medallion thought about this too?

What we do is that we have a kind of strategic partnership with some companies in these countries. If you can notice, most of the countries in  Africa will want majority stake to be in the hands of their nationals. So we developed a kind of strategic partnership in these countries.  We try to have nice local partners. We have a number of services and partners across the sub-regions such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, and other countries within the ECOWAS.

 

There are calls for Nigerians to look towards self-sustenances, especially in the ICT. After the visit of Mark Zuckerberg, there appears to be a growing interest in incubation hubs around the country. What’s your view on this?

People must understand their motivation and what drives them.  More often, it is the motivation to make quick money, most of these things don’t come easy. It takes time, patience and hard work to be successful. Whenever I meet them and they ask me this type of question, I will answer them that: if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, get at it, make it work and be successful. But, you should prepare to fail seven times and stand. People only see the glory, not the pain. The opportunity cost matters, there are things that one can put together before this. There must be an understanding that not every project ends the same way. In the technology field, whatever idea you have, before you implement, it may be obsolete, so one must be very careful in ICT business as a technopreneur.

 

IT firms complain of lack of government support. What do you say to this? Well, they are trying, technology based but they can do more. The Nigerian government must technology-based project isn’t the same as equipment based projects. Take Bank of Industry as an example,  they give preference to equipment based projects than technology based projects. What they failed to understand is that the business models varies. One thing is that in technology-based projects, it is not about plant and machines unlike agriculture that you can buy a land and tractor, but in IT projects it is a different game. The earlier the government starts thinking of support to technology-based projects, the better for us.

 

 

“We drastically reduced call challenges, when you route your calls through Medallion because we are an aggregator house. We are an aggregation point, we ensure that our platform is technology neutral, be it GSM, CDMA, LTE or any form of communication, it doesn’t matter to us here in Medallion.”

 

 

“We ensure that telcos and other carriers have a seamless connection thereby reducing the operating expenditures  (OpEx) such as frequently upgrading their networks and also saves them work time.  The industry has moved forward, the cost of maintaining interconnection has been greatly reduced based on the network of Medallion.”

 

 

“Personally, I feel very sorry for VAS firms. What VAS providers have been going through, in all honesty, isn’t fair. Some of the operators don’t want to play by the rules. The major operators have had a relationship which in my own opinion isn’t fair. This is affecting the level of indebtedness in the industry. “

 

“We always advise these VAS firms to channel their traffic via Medallion interconnect clearing system, but they wouldn’t. If they had done this by channeling these traffic to our system, we will settle their interconnection debts that might arise.  The services they offer, we can give connectivity to the VAS providers and we keep records of the transactions.”

 

 “We do global settlement, we don’t isolate operators, we pay from a global standpoint. The issue of the dispute will also be resolved because of the VAS firms, if they channel their traffic via Medallion, it is Medallion that will pay them not VAS operators. These are the areas we could have helped them.”

 

“The VAS firms are suffering because they choose to maintain a peer to peer relationship with the telcos.”

 

“People have to change their business model to be in tune with the evolving technology. This is what the telecommunication firms must come up with rather than complaining or trying to stop it.”

 

 “[Network operators]can look for other ways to monetize OTT usage rather than fighting against technology. Telcos cannot win a fight against technology. The option is that telcos must come up with ways to be in business.”


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