NCC blasted over call masking sanctions errors

NCC blasted over call masking sanctions errors

NCC blasted over call masking sanctions errors

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The Nigerian telecoms regulator has come under fire for allegedly ignoring key facts in its clampdown on six Interconnect companies over alleged activities in the country, Technology Times has been told.

The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) has pulled off a volte face when it said that it was looking the way of so-called SIM Box operators, apart from six interconnect companies that were recently penalised by the agency for call masking.

Mr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Communications Limited told Technology Times in an exclusive interview that NCC did not get its facts right before it imposed a 90-day  suspension on six Interconnect companies that were erroneously accused of call masking in the Nigerian telecoms industry.

NCC, which imposed the 90-days traffic blockage on the six companies in February this year, lifted the ban after 52 days, and is now blaming SIM Box operators for what it cites as persistent incidence of call masking in the telecommunications system.

“NCC, which imposed the 90-days traffic blockage on the six companies in February this year, lifted the ban after 52 days, and is now blaming SIM Box operators for what it cites as persistent incidence of call masking in the telecommunications system.”

Mr Ikechukwu Nnamani says telecoms regulator didn’t get its fact right before it  imposed a 90-day  suspension on interconnect companies

”The truth of the matter is that as an interconnect clearing house, we don’t generate traffic. We only switch on route traffic that is passed to us by other parties and that what we do and that’s what the licence condition allows us to do.”

Before the latest turn of event, NCC alleged that six Interconnect companies were involved in the practice of call masking by using technologies that allow them 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.

Six interconnect clearing companies, Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria Limited; Medallion Communications Limited; Niconnx Communication Limited; Breeze Micro Limited; Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited, were alleged by NCC to have been implicated in call masking activities in Nigeria.

WATCH | Call Masking: ATCON wants ‘speedy’ probe of mobile network operators

Meanwhile, the Medallion Communications CEO says his company and other companies have made an aggressive push to protest the allegations levelled against them on the call masking clampdown by NCC.

“The suspension has been lifted when we formally protested to the regulator that error was made first in accusing us when all the fact was available or on the table for them to take such action” Nnamani told Technology Times in Lagos.

According to the Medallion CEO, “we are happy eventually that they followed due process and ultimately they lifted the suspension.”

Nnamani says there were some regulatory infractions that were presented, some of which were that some operators whose licence have expired were still connected on their network.

No ALTON member ‘sanctioned for call masking’, group says

But he explains that “in all fairness, there is nowhere that that warrants suspending someone’s license. We were not formally told that we should disconnect them and we refused to disconnect them.

”The truth of the matter is that as an interconnect clearing house, we don’t generate traffic. We only switch on route traffic that is passed to us by other parties and that what we do and that’s what the licence condition allows us to do.”

Mobile phone users seen in Computer Village, Ikeja

Technology Times had exclusively reported that the Nigerian telecoms regulator plans to impose varying degree of sanctions including a 90-day traffic blockade on interconnect companies allegedly involved in call masking in the Nigerian telecoms industry.

The telecoms regulator says the first wave of penalties which affected interconnect companies and other operators is the first leg of its sweeping action against call masking. The next wave will affect mobile operators and individuals allegedly involved in SIM-boxing.

NCC had earlier this year claimed that the varying degree of penalties against the six Interconnect companies were imposed “following a painstaking investigation process which included collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Department of State Services.”

Mr Tony Ojobo, Director, Public Affairs at NCC said at the time that the accused companies were sanctioned over the alleged “fraudulent practice” of delivering international calls in Nigeria as locall calls, to escape paying international settlement rates.

Apart from the six companies, NCC also barred over 750,000 numbers assigned to several Private Network Links (PNL) and Local Exchange Operator (LEO) licensees, “which number ranges were found to have been utilized for the practice”, Ojobo adds.

Ojobo explains that “regarding the barring of numbers, over 750,000 individual numbers across the nation, made up of about 31 number ranges have been barred.”

 

According to him, the telecoms regulator has “recently been inundated with complaints from service providers and consumers regarding the high incidence of call-masking, call-refiling and SIM-Boxing.

“Generally, the practice complained of involves disguising international calls as local calls in order to profit from price differentials between international and local calls. Apart from the resultant loss of revenue by service providers, the practice some also has negative security implications”, the agency’s spokesman says.

Ojobo explains that “regarding the barring of numbers, over 750,000 individual numbers across the nation, made up of about 31 number ranges have been barred.”

Call Masking: NCC confirms Technology Times exclusive report of sanctions against operators

The licensees whose numbers have been barred are: Vezeti Communications Services Limited, Voix Networks Limited, Mobitel Limited, Peace Global Satellite Communications Limited, ABG Communications Limited, Vodacom Business Africa (Nigeria) Limited, Swift Telephone Networks Limited, QVODA Telecoms Limited, Wireless Telecoms Limited and Emcatel Networks Limited, NCC says.

Ojobo says that NCC “found that some of these were terminating millions of minutes, whereas they only have very few active customers.”

He explains that “the incidence of call masking has significantly reduced since it commenced a multi-faceted approach to address the menace.”

According to Ojobo, NCC is informing “all stakeholders that the actions so far taken are just the first stage of the exercise. The second stage which has now commenced, will focus on the Mobile Network Operators and other persons involved in SIM-Boxing.”

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Kolade Akinola Technology Journalist at Technology Times Mobile: + 234 (0) 807 401 6027

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