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Mixed reactions trail call rate hike – Investigation

…It’s just a rumour, it can’t be true – NATCOMS, ATCON

…It’s possible – ALTON

Ladesope Ladelokun

Controversy over the purported plan by telcos to hike call rates has remained red hot as stakeholders in the telecoms sector have expressed divergent views over the feasibility of a new price regime, findings by The Daily Times revealed.

While some stakeholders have dismissed the purported plan as a rumour with no particle of truth, others believe a tariff hike is possible given the nagging problem of multiple taxes and levies telcos contend with from time to time.

Last week, a national daily had reported that telecommunications operators were considering a review of call tariff in selected states in the country. The new tariff, it said, would reflect the cost of doing business in the affected states, noting that the move became necessary in view of the multiple taxes and levies imposed by government agencies in certain states on telecoms infrastructure.

Speaking with The Daily Times on the matter, President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Olusola Teniola, says no increase in tariff is expected since the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has not approved an increase in rates on the use of voice and data services.

He, however, admitted that there were considerations about looking at the basic cost of making a call in the industry.

He noted that there was no indication that there would be a unilateral hike in call rates, adding that until that occurs, the purported plan to increase call rates only exist in the realm of conjectures or rumour.

“It is not true. It’s a rumour. There is no way we can increase tariff without NCC’s approval. And NCC has not approved an increase in rates on the use of voice and data services. So, there isn’t any increase in tariff expected.

“There are considerations at looking at the basic cost of making a call in the industry. A report that the NCC has initiated since 2017.

We are still waiting for the outcome of that from the NCC but there has been no indication in any area that there is going to be a unilateral increase in prices. Until that occurs, then we have to assume it is just rumour or conjectures”, he said

On the condition that can provoke a hike in call rates, he said should the Federal Government increase Value Added Tax(VAT) by 50 per cent as speculated in some quarters, call rates would definitely be affected.

Teniola says that the activities of internet service providers and over the top players such as Google, Facebook that are now offering free WiFi have engendered a competitive spirit in the telecoms industry to ensure that consumers get the best prices and make broadband and internet available to every citizen in Nigeria at the most affordable price.

In the same vein, President of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, says the competition in the telecoms sector has foreclosed any possibility of a price increase at the moment. Ogunbanjo dismissed as untrue the story of the plan to hike call rates.

Ogunbanjo said: “Competition will not allow them to do that. They dare not do that because some of them will lose customers. Since 2001, they have been trying to do that. It is not going to be possible.

They can’t go beyond the price cap the NCC has given them. If they do, competition will bring it down again. It can’t be true.”

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr Gbenga Adebayo, told The Daily Times that conversation on multiple taxations, issues surrounding it and the implications on current charges were ongoing.

Contrary to the positions of NATCOMS and ATCON helmsmen, Adebayo says a hike is possible but it depends on the outcome of the ongoing conversation.