“We believe the minister was misquoted” says ALTON as it counters government on voicemail operation

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By Emmanuel Yinka Fagbenle

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has countered a recent directive by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, that voicemail service should be optional on operators’ platforms.

ALTON said it believed the “minister was misquoted” as “Voicemail (VM) is a value-added service. Only those who opt-in should have it.” ALTON is the umbrella body for all mobile telecom operators.

According to part of the statement issued yesterday in Abuja  by the ministry:  “Dr. Pantami has issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines and It is apparent, that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country, has beamed the searchlight on the sector properly, and some unpatriotic elements in the system are devising subtle, ingenious methods of defrauding Nigerians.

But in an email to media organisations last night, ALTON has argued that the directive was not within the framework of a major “policy issue” and considered it interference in the work of the regulator that could invariably undermine stakeholders’ confidence in the sector.

“However, this is not a major “policy issue” within the meaning of S. 23&24 of the NCA [Nigerian Communications Act 2003] which empower the Minister to formulate “general policy for the communications sector…” (after consultations organised by the NCC!). It is a mere operational/consumer protection issue which the Ministry can simply call NCC’s attention to,” said ALTON in its email.

“It is a purely consumer related issues that minister refers to as a major policy issue and it also amounts to unnecessary interference by the Minister contrary  to Section 25  subsections 1 & 2 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003,” it added. The statement was pintly signed by Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo and its Head of Operations, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga.

Below is the full statement by ALTON:

Our attention has been drawn to yet another directive by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy on Deactivation of Voice Mail Protocol by  Service Providers’ Network.

In as much that we want to believe that the Minister was misquoted.

However, our position on Voicemail Directive by the Minister 

1. Voicemail (VM) is a value-added service. Only those who opt-in should have it. 

2. The current practice on some networks is that once you call and the recipient doesn’t pick, you get a voice prompt saying that the subscriber is not available and asking you to record a voice message *after the tone* . 

3. For the avoidance of doubt,  you (as a consumer) are not billed anything, but if you delay, you may be charged for a few seconds, or for the time it takes you to record the message. 

4. The recipient of the voice mail does not get charged for listening. It is free. 

5. VM is a value added service and it should only be provisioned for those who expressly request for it. It may be recalled that  MNOs reintroduced the VM facility to discourage people who “flash” continuously. Flashing wastes newtwork resources and also degrades QoS reporting. This should not however justify the practise the way it is being done by some networks

6. However, this is not a major “policy issue” within the meaning of S. 23&24 of the NCA which empower the Minister to formulate “general policy for the communications sector…” (after consultations organised by the NCC!). It is a mere operational/consumer protection issue which the Ministry can simply call NCC’s attention to. 

7. It is a purely consumer related issues that minister refers to as a major policy issue and it also amounts to unnecessary interference by the Minister contrary  to Section 25  subsections 1 & 2 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.

Engr. Gbenga Adebayo -Chairman  Gbolahan Awonuga -Head, Operations


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