FG probes ‘call masking’ of international phone traffic into Nigeria
A Federal Government investigation is underway to unmask companies using “call masking” techniques to pass off incoming international telecoms traffic as local calls into Nigeria.
Technology Times has just learnt that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is investigating some of its licensed operators and some alleged rogue comanies using call masking to dump international traffic over allegation that they are committing telecoms fraud.
Call masking technologies allow operators to terminate inbound international telecoms traffic as local calls so they don’t have to pay International Termination Rate (ITR), which is the interconnection charges set by telecoms traffic carriers as carrier-to-carrier charges.
In the telecoms industry, ITR is determined based on several components involved in setting up cost of termination and completing an international call by telecoms service providers.
The first the cost of the national portion of the call from the customer’s terminal to the international gateway; the second cost component of the call is the international transmission portion and the third cost component is the international call is the cost of access to the network of the terminating country.
The Nigerian telecoms regulator, NCC, had on September 16, 2016 pegged the termination rate for international inbound traffic from N3.90 per minute to N24.40 per minute, saying the interim rate will subsist pending the conclusion of an ongoing study to determine cost-based pricing for mobile voice termination rates, according to the telecoms regulator.
Prior the ongoing investigations, NCC which says that it has identified a burgeoning grey market activities in the Nigerian telecoms industry by companies that are said to use techniques like call masking, call refiling and SIM-Box.
Investigators using mobile spectrum monitoring equipment, traffic data analysis and other monitoring methods are probing the airwaves to identify gateway, interconnect, mobile and other operators to identify affected companies, people conversant with the situation have told Technology Times.
NCC is spreading its dragnets across the telecoms sector to some of its licensees that carry international traffic, gateway operators and some other unlicensed operators that use call masking technologies.
Nigeria remains a choice destination for the exchange of telecoms traffic because of the market numbers estimated to have grown above 140 million active phone lines.
According to the market information by NCC, the Nigerian telecoms market has 142,320,120 active phone connections by November 2017 split among MTN Nigeria 51,414,345 (36.23%); Globacom 37,467,184 (26.40%); Airtel Nigeria 35,943,063 (25.33%) and 9mobile 17,075,813 (12.03%), and other smaller operators.