ATCON, ALTON to FG: Let market not politics determine data price

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The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Association of Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ATCON) have called for market-based approach to determining cost of data warning that price dictated by political exigencies will only hurt operators and discourage investors.

They want the federal government (FG) to lead an industry dialogue on the challenges facing all stakeholders.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, days back, had directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to work with the network operators to reduce the price of data.

The minister further directed, this week, that data cost should be reviewed downward in five days together with issues around illegal data deduction.

The senate committee on communication had similarly expressed concerns that operators were ripping off Nigerians with high data prices.

But the operators under the aegis of ALTON and ATCON are arguing that price cannot be determined by fiat, insisting that only a market based approach is realistic.

The cost of doing business in Nigeria is high and government must find ways to address this, said ATCON’s president, Mr. Olusola Teniola.

For ALTON’s chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, the federal government not only need to adopt a more proactive market based price ceiling for data but also should be cautious not to appear to be muzzling the independence of the telecom regulator, NCC from acting in the best interest of all stakeholders that include consumers and operators.

Adebayo wants government to be more sensitive in considering all the dynamics that determine the price at which data is brought to consumers.  Anything outside of this would be overbearing both to the operators and the regulator; and could invariably send the wrong signal to investors.

Data floor price unresolved since 2015

According to Teniola, data floor price has remained unresolved since 2015 and 2016 when attempts by the NCC to get an agreeable price ceiling incited untoward controversies from subscribers and members of the national assembly.

He advised that stakeholders’ dialogue has become necessary on the research outcome by the consultants the NCC had hired in 2015 to help determine the accurate cost of providing data services by operators and to also benchmark the data floor price.

The main issues that underscore why data price is high in Nigeria are still prevalent since 2015 and cost of doing business in Nigeria has not reduced, added Teniola.

Doing business in Nigeria is costly

For Adebayo and Teniola, government needs to address the issues of multiple taxation, high FOREX rates for operators that impact negatively on cost of importing telecom equipment and maintaining them; and right of ways (RoW) all of which have connived to ensure that telecom services including data reach the consumer at premium rates.

“Government needs to look at issues of right policy to aid competition and how telecom operators share infrastructures in a way that could minimise the cost of delivering services,” said the ATCON’s president.

According to him, Nigeria broadband plan envisages many channels to delivering data to consumers and not just mobile networks which have become almost the sole channel through which consumers access data.

Government should be thinking of licensing community network operators to help drive data at grassroots levels, said Teniola.

Illegal data deductions

He said the position of ATCON is that the issue of illegal data deductions should be looked at through more consumers’ awareness and investigations because technology has evolved to eat more data which the consumers may not be aware of. OTT generally raises data usage which has nothing to do with how data is delivered to the consumers by the operators but the setting of the terminals in the hands of consumers.

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