Nigeria fines 4 mobile phone carriers

2012-05-14 10:56

Lagos - Regulators in Nigeria have fined four mobile phone carriers a total of $7.3m over poor service in a nation that depends on cellular phones for communications, a spokesperson said.

The Nigeria Communications Commission's penalties hit Bharti Airtel Limited of India, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat, local firm Globacom Limited. and South Africa-based MTN Group Limited, some of the dominant carriers in Africa's most populous nation. Etisalat and MTN must pay $2.25m apiece, while Airtel faces a penalty of $1.68m and Globacom faces a $1.125m fine, said Reuben Muoka, a commission spokesperson, on Sunday.

The fines come for poor service, dropped calls and bad line quality in March and April, Muoka said. The commission issued a statement Saturday saying that they decided to allow January and February to be a grace period for the companies to improve their services.

In October, the communications commission warned carriers it would begin fining them for poor service.

"The current penalties signal a new regime of quality of service management in the Nigerian telecommunications industry," the commission said.

The companies have until 21 May to pay the regulators or they will face further penalties.

MTN, long the dominant provider in Nigeria, has 41.1 million subscribers in the nation after 10 years of doing business there. MTN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Etisalat said in a statement it is committed to delivering quality service to more than 12 million subscribers in Nigeria, and expects to spend more than half a billion dollars on upgrading its network this year.

Explosive growth

The CEO of Etisalat's Nigeria division, Steven Evans, blamed "the failure to hit some of the quality measures" in part on industrywide difficulties including a lack of reliable power, accidental damage to transmission lines and occasional sabotage.

"These factors are unique to the operating environment in Nigeria and pose a tough challenge for operators to deliver quality of service levels equal to that of other countries," Evans said. "What we would like to see is the declaration of the telecommunications industry as critical national infrastructure which would afford the industry and its facilities greater protection."

Emeka Oparah, a spokesperson for Airtel in Nigeria, declined to comment. Officials with Globacom could not be reached on Sunday.

Nigeria, long troubled by pothole-littered roads and little electricity, has relied on mobile phones since the government granted the public access to them about a decade ago. Landlines are almost nonexistent, as the state-run telephone company has collapsed and repeated efforts to sell it to a private company have failed. However, carrier service is often so poor that those who can afford it carry multiple phones with different providers to be able to make calls.

The ultimatum by the commission comes as Nigeria, home to 160 million people, continues its explosive growth, making it a lucrative market for mobile phone service providers. The arrival of Airtel sparked a price war in the market, with local phone calls now down to pennies a minute.

  • revaro.winkler - 2012-05-14 11:39

    they must fine the mobile networks operating in south africa as wel because we also have this problem and we are being overcharged for certain services hope south africa learns from niga

      Bibi - 2012-05-14 11:57

      They steal all the cables in Nigeria and all the diesel from the base stations unfortunately.

      Omo - 2012-05-14 12:13

      @Bibi ...that is not entirely true.While there are cases of sabotage in the telecommunications industry,these cases are not frequent.The problem with the telecommunications companies in Nigeria is that they prefer to get more for less.They install second hand equipment and rip off the Nigerian populace with the help of corrupt officials of cause.I for one will love to see MTN banned from Nigeria because they are the ones controlling the "rip-off mafia".Thanks to Airtel ,they got a rude shock and are now trying to make up.I am routing for Airtel and Globacom to dominate the Nigerian market as MTN as proved time and time again to be a useless and corrupt company.

      Bibi - 2012-05-14 12:54

      I am living in my 4th African country (incl nigeria) and whilst some networks might use 2nd hand equipment it is certainly not true of the smaller players. There are always missing cables somewhere, new base stations cannot be built unless you bribe the head honcho of that area and so it goes on. Same for the internet.

  • Mark - 2012-05-14 13:34

    Yes, these Nigerians really need a good service to send us these sms' informing us of winning millions in competitions that we never really entered.

  • digare - 2012-05-14 14:57

    When there is a 24hours mobile phone service there is a zero hour electricity supply to nigerian and yet again the dog is barking at wrong person... the scam is the government level is not address now they go after companies that deliver more than 50% services... leaving behind oil subsidy thieves...

      odiahjameschris - 2012-05-14 18:39

      u fool so i dnt blame u ok u dnt travel u sit in hut and think sa is the capital of the world.

      sbjtundde - 2012-05-15 07:55

      These are the kind of views that don't make sense anymore...and it just show the level of undrerstanding.Nigeria will succeed even in the midst of negative report and analysis...If russia can pull it off Nigeria will.\r\nPlease can yÓu keep your opinion to your self.

  • bernard.swanepoel - 2012-05-14 16:27

    I think this should be done to a number of organizations and companies here is SA.

  • solomonEze1 - 2012-05-15 12:30

    This is very good,they needs to be challenged before they step up

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