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Still on the declining services in telecom sector – Thisday

By The Citizen
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The telecom operators need to strengthen their services as people are losing confidence The rate at which the services of the nation's major telecommunications operators have degenerated in recent times is not only embarrassing but indeed unacceptable. This lamentable decline in quality of service came to the fore during the last yuletide season when it became so difficult to place calls both within and across networks, while short messages or texts took several days to be delivered. With dropped calls and non-completion of calls now standard practices by the telecom providers, the euphoria and relief that greeted the advent of the general system for mobile communications (GSM) a little over 11 years ago seem to be on the wane as subscribers face the agony of poor services.

In their usual penchant to escape a public problem for which they have little or no control, many Nigerians now carry no fewer than three phone handsets for the different networks. Even with that expensive habit, there is indeed no end to the litany of woes which the Nigerian subscriber goes through as there are periods when none of the networks would work. For those who use the internet, many have also resorted to subscribing to no fewer than three or four internet modems because a single service provider will surely disappoint. This state of affair definitely cannot be allowed to continue and we enjoin the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to call the telecom providers to order.

It is noteworthy that due to the declining quality of service by the telecom providers, the NCC once imposed some hefty penalties on all the major operators and a further ban on all manner of promotions. But not only has the directive been disobeyed, the quality of their services has also nosedived. At the peak of the dubious promotional campaigns there was no trick that was not employed by the operators to win over subscribers or to compel them to spend more money on services in return for very ludicrous prizes. At a point, telecommunication operations turned into one big network of gambling business while quality of service took a nosedive, until the NCC intervened.

Unfortunately it now seems the sanctions have failed to yield any positive result. If anything, the services of virtually all the network operators are still below standard and practically all of them have resorted to those same promotions again. Even at that, there is abundant evidence that Nigeria remains a major growing market for telecom operators as the nation's teledensity has continued to grow despite poor services. Yet it would seem that the higher the teledensity, the worse off the subscribers become.

It is noteworthy that telecom operators blame this lamentable situation on a series of natural and man-made mishaps which have dealt some serious blows to their infrastructure and equipment. For instance, the heavy floods of the last two years were said to have taken a toll on telecommunication facilities across the country and that it would be quite some time before services would be fully restored since some of the affected areas were out of reach for several months. But the worst calamity to befall the industry was the attack on the facilities and equipment of some major operators by the Boko Haram group which seems to have deliberately targeted their locations in parts of the north.

Notwithstanding the temporary setback which these incidents may have occasioned, the fact remains that subscribers and consumers of telecommunication services are not getting value for their money. That is why we enjoin the NCC to be more alive to its responsibilities.

Operators that fail to significantly improve their services should be heavily sanctioned with an option that includes suspension of their operating licences. Whatever it will take to enforce compliance must be done to ensure that subscribers are spared the agony of poor service delivery from the networks.