Monday, 19 November 2012 00:00
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Promos, Lotteries: Mixed reactions trial ban as GSMA lashes govt

While mobile telecommunication services subscribers continue to hail the ban by the Nigerian Communications Commission,(NCC)  on promo and lotteries from all the mobile telephone companies, the Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA) said that governments across Africa including Nigeria have not done much to address the problem of connectivity particularly for data.

The GSMA, a body GSM operators in the world said that there is lack  of required spectrum to carry ever-expanding networks across the Sub-saharan Africa.

According to the GSMA in a report, which came out few days after the NCC ban on network over promo and lotteries last week disclosed that a considerable increase in network congestion can be expected unless governments across the region take urgent steps to release new spectrum.

The report, which was the result of a study conducted by Deloitte telecommunications observed that the Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world, with an average annual growth of 44 per cent since 2001.

Although the reason given for the ban was poor network quality from the operators, which does not include only voice service, the GSMA noted that mobile broadband is the only possible route to deliver the Internet to consumers.

Chief government and regulatory affairs officer at GSMA, Tom Phillips, said it is crucial that government works together with mobile operators to support the industry stressing that “to create an environment that supports and encourages this immense growth, it is imperative that governments work in partnership with mobile operators to enable the industry to thrive throughout the region, ultimately providing affordable options to connect its citizens.”

The GSMA said, despite investments of $16.5 billion over the past five years ($2.8 billion in 2011 alone) across the five key markets in the region, mainly directed towards the expansion of network capacity, sub-Saharan Africa faces a looming “capacity and coverage crunch” in terms of available mobile spectrum.

“The current amount of spectrum allocated to mobile services in sub-Saharan Africa is among the lowest worldwide. Some countries apportion as little as 80MHz, compared to developed markets where allocation for mobile exceeds 500MHz.”

According to GSMA, the forecast that mobile Internet traffic will grow 25-fold over the next four years is not cherry news since the result is a considerable increase in network congestion unless governments across the region take urgent steps to release new spectrum in line with the recommendations of the International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference.

 “This includes capacity in the digital dividend (700-800MHz) band and the 2.6GHz band, and also liberalising existing licence agreements to allow the deployment of high-speed Universal Mobile Telecommunications System and long-term evolution networks in the 900MHz and 1 800MHz bands,”the GSMA said.

Deloitte telecommunications partner, Chris Williams, said, “The current spectrum allocations across the region lag behind those of developed countries and, unless increased, seem likely to raise costs of provision, challenge investment decisions and increase network congestion.”

According to the GSMA, sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest levels of mobile Internet usage globally.

In Nigeria and Zimbabwe, mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1 per cent and 57.9 per cent, respectively over five times that of the global average (10 per cent).

While applauding the impact of the rapid pace of mobile adoption on the economy of the region, the GSMA said that it directly contributed $32 billion to the sub-Saharan African economy, 4.4 per cent of GDP with Nigeria currently boasting of over 100 million active mobile lines.

Using Nigeria as a point of reference, the GSMA said that high levels of government taxation and new regulation also threaten to limit the growth of mobile services across the region.

“Africa has the highest taxation, as a proportion of the cost of mobile ownership, among any developing regions worldwide, with taxes on handset and mobile devices much higher than elsewhere. There is also a worrying trend of new taxes being introduced on essential mobile services”, the world body said.

The GSMA also lash at government over the  approvals for tower and fibre deployment saying it have been identified as the single biggest obstacle to investment by the mobile community in sub-Saharan Africa.

It added that as capacity increases and such deployments are urgently required to cope with substantial traffic growth, complex and uncoordinated national and local regulations and approval processes, especially concerning rights of way.

“Tackling stifling regulation, addressing high taxation and implementing a harmonised approach to future spectrum allocation will further boost the success story of mobile across the continent,” Phillips said.

While applauding the ban on promos and lotteries, President of National Association Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo said the ban was long over-due saying that there had been series of complains from its members over the impact that the ban is having on the quality of services.

He said that although the promos tend to benefit subscribers, they however created problem across all the network by causing congestion.

He however said that the subscribers will in the long-run be loser saying that such promos made it possible for an undergraduate to win N200 million in the MTN Wonder promo may never come again.

He said that most of the promos had indeed better the life of a lot Nigerians as the prizes turnout to be a fortune for the winners.

Ogunbanjo also observed that operators ahead of the introduction of the number portability were using the promo to keep subscribers clued to their network adding it is necessary that the issue of quality of service be addressed before talking of promo and lotteries.


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