Over 46.5million subscribers on the Globacom network have been restricted from calling any number on the MTN network in Nigeria, as both telecommunications operators battle owed interconnect fees of up to N10billion.
BusinessDay confirmed from sources at MTN Nigeria that there has been a partial restriction of calls and texts from Globacom subscribers to customers on the MTN Network since last week.
“MTN customers are still able to call Glo lines, however, customers of Glo are unable to call the MTN network since we disconnected them for owing about N7 billion to N10 billion in piled up interconnect fees. Apart from owing, the network operator is arrogant and will not attend meetings or respond to notification letters,” the source said.
Recall that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in December 2018 gave approval to mobile network operators (MNOs) to disconnect their debtors over continued rise in interconnect debt and facility charges and failure of the affected operators to pay the huge interconnection fees owed. A 21-day window was given by the NCC to the companies to make amends or risk disconnections.
In a notification letter, NCC asked MTN, Airtel and IHS to disconnect, on partial basis, services to mobile network operators such as Globacom, Ntel and interconnect exchange points including Breeze, Exchange, Solid, Medallion and Niconnx.
Interconnect debt in Nigeria’s telecom sector stands at over N165billion according to NCC. Henry Nkemadu, director of public affairs, NCC, confirmed that indeed, the regulator is aware of the recent disconnection of Glo subscribers from calling the MTN network.
“NCC is aware and the commission gave approval for the owed companies to partially disconnect service to their network,” Nkemadu said.
“These MNOs were notified of the applications made by MTN, Airtel and IHS, and were given opportunity to comment and state their respective cases. The commission having examined the applications and circumstances surrounding the indebtedness determined that the debtor MNOs do not have sufficient reasons for non-payment of interconnect and facility charges,” NCC stated in its pre-disconnection notice.
Industry analysts say that millions more of subscribers will face service disruptions over the coming weeks, if other owed operators follow through with partial disconnection, as millions of voice and data passes through the affected exchanges on daily basis.
“MTN and Globacom need to reconcile their interconnect debt so that subscribers can be reconnected. Otherwise, the ripple effect of this partial service disconnection will negatively impact the telecoms industry, as subscribers will resort to using overt the top (OTT) applications like Whatsapp to make calls. This will not be good for the industry because a lot of the voice revenues of operators come from local/domestic calls,” Olusola Teniola, president, association of telecommunications companies of Nigeria (ATCON) told BusinessDay.
Arinze Anapugars, public relations manager of Globacom refused to respond to questions on the issue, however, sources familiar with the issue say that MTN and Globacom are currently holding discussions to resolve the disconnection.