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Interconnect Debt: Operators face more scrutiny as MTN, Glo reach agreement

The Executive Vice Chairman, the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr Aminu Maida, stated this in Lagos, yesterday, during an interaction with journalists.

Maida, who used the occasion to unveil his plan for the sector, said it has become necessary to reposition the sector and push it forward.

The EVC, who marked 100 days in the office yesterday, disclosed that the NCC under him would focus on key areas – collaboration, data-driven operation, compliance and monitoring as well as digitisation.

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Specifically, on compliance, Maida said the commission would hold all industry licensees accountable for all their actions in the sector, stressing that operators must honour agreements.

Maida’s declaration came as NCC informed that it has directed MTN to stop the disconnection of Globacom over interconnect debts it owed it.

The NCC said MTN and Globacom have reached an agreement to resolve the interconnect debt issue, over which the former was to disconnect the latter.

This came as the 10-day pre-disconnection notice issued by the Commission lapsed yesterday.

However, NCC in a statement signed by its Director of Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, noted that the disconnection is only ‘put on hold’ for 21 days starting from January 17th, 2024. Within this period, the debt issue is expected to have been completely resolved.

Recall that the telecoms regulator had last week approved a partial disconnection of Globacom by MTN over its refusal to pay interconnect debt.

The development then was to see MTN partially disconnecting the Glo network from its network as instructed by the telecoms regulator. It would mean that Globacom’s subscribers would not be able to make calls to any MTN number. However, Glo customers can receive inbound calls from MTN customers.

Muoka said: “The Commission is pleased to announce that the parties have now reached an agreement to resolve all outstanding issues between them. For this reason, and in the exercise of its regulatory powers in that regard, the Commission has put the phased disconnection on hold for 21 (twenty-one) days from today, January 17, 2024.

“Whilst the Commission expects MTN and Glo to resolve all outstanding issues within 21 days, the Commission insists that interconnect debts must be settled by all operating companies as a necessary component towards compliance with regulatory obligations of all licensees. Mobile network operators (MNOs) and other licensees in the telecom industry must keep to the terms and conditions of their licenses, especially as contained in their interconnection agreements.”

Recall that as of 2020, the former Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, who described interconnect debt as “a big challenge” in the industry, put the debt figure at over N70 billion, noting that this has been threatening the operators’ capacity to expand their infrastructure for better quality service.

On his plan, Maida said to achieve the four areas listed, NCC will work with three major stakeholders, which are telecoms consumers, operators (investors) and the government to drive growth.

He stressed that the needs of each of the stakeholders would be addressed, especially as regards quality of experience (QoE) on services.

Harping on transparency, the EVC, who promised the commission’s independence, said everything under him would be handled and done transparently.

“Everybody including industry licensees in the value chain shall be held accountable. Regulations will come in and there will be consequences,” he stated.

Assuring that the sector will remain the backbone for other sectors, the EVC said operations would align with global best practices.

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About Deola Oluwafemi

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