Four years ago, Dr.
Juwah reflects on his tenure and other key issues in the telecoms sector.
Did you ever expect to become
As you know, I've been in the ICT (Information and communications technology) industry for a very long time, starting from my days in the early 70s at Shell. In 1990, I specifically moved to telecoms. So, I have had the advantage of seeing the development of telecommunication in
How far have you gone in the implementation of your six-point agenda?
Actually, I can summarise the six-point agenda in the following way; we wanted to consolidate the progress made before we came, and we wanted to improve quality of service (QoS) to enhance broadband implementation, improve competition, provide diversified choices for consumers at good quality and price and improve our presence in the international space.
On consolidation of the progress made so far, I think we have achieved significant progress in this area. If we start from the parametres, we've increased tele-density from 63 per cent in 2010 when I came in to more than 90 per cent in 2014. We've increased subscriber base from 88 million in 2010 to more than 130 million. This is an improvement of almost 50 per cent in four years that I have been here. And you should remember that the 88 million was for 10 years before I came. So, we have done remarkably well in this area.
We have also done remarkably well in the contribution to the Nigerian economy in terms of contribution to GDP (Gross Domestic Product). We have increased it from five per cent when I came in to 8.5 per cent as announced recently during the rebasing of the economy. Finally, looking at investment in the sector, we increased it from
For QoS, we would like to have done better but we have always been striving to do better. We're rolling out our initiatives for broadband implementation, as we promised. It has just started and it is progressing at a very great speed. We have also improved competition by looking at the competition space within the telecoms industry, looking at operators that are dominant, imposing some limitations on them.
I must say, like I have always said that dominance is nothing bad but what you do with your dominance matters. Dominance means that you've been doing everything correctly. You've been doing things well; that's why you're dominating. But if you use your dominance in uncompetitive practice, that's when the regulator intervenes. We have also rolled out Mobile Number Portability (MNP). This deepens competition. If you don't like your operator, you move to the next one; holding your number. We have provided diversified choice for consumers. There are many products being rolled out which we're approving.
We've reduced prices significantly. In fact, if you look at voice services, we've reduced price at more than 45 per cent in four years. We've slashed the prices of SMS from N10 to N4. We've actually provided good choice for consumers at reasonably good price. As for our presence in the international arena, we're taking part in all the
What is your expectation on mobile number portability?
The operators that have large market share will not want it. The operators that think that they're providing good service will want it. So, it was important that the regulator provide a level playing field. We consulted all stakeholders about what we're going to do. It took some time, then we offered a bid for the database provider for MNP. It started in
It is starting to take off now and one of the issues that actually hindered strong regulatory intervention is that there were really no regulations but there were business rules. I'm happy to announce that the regulation for MNP has been gazetted by government. Now, we have full power by law to descend on any operator who is not carrying out MNP guidelines. It is a success, and I hope the public will appreciate it and give us the credit.
What informed the slashing of SMS tariff?
We never do anything without studying it. We started by getting a consultant that has a lot of experience in that area and then consulting stakeholders including the operators and consumers. Slashing SMS price came from our cost-based study for SMS; I don't want to tell you the cost of SMS to the operators but I can tell you it is very much lower than N4, so the operators were making what I'll call an unacceptable profit when it was at N10 and that's why you see there was no terrible uproar against it. We believe we've protected the consumer by implementing the slash.
Did you slash the interconnect rate because of the consumer?
Interconnect rate according to international best practices must be cost-based. It must be based on the cost of making a call, so we hired PriceWaterhouse Coopers from
You see, it must keep on coming down because equipment are being amortised; new equipment that they bought are not as big as the ones they started with. You can see the dropping in interconnect rate. We adopted what is called a gliding model, where it is reducing year by year from N6.40k and by the end of the third year, which is next year, it will be N3.90k.
Operators like that, but what they argued about was that our model was asymmetrical in nature. Asymmetrical means that the bigger operators pay smaller operators bigger sums to interconnect. This is important to protect some of the operators. We said that operators that have less than seven and a half per cent of the subscriber base will be regarded as small operators. This includes the CDMA and new operators that are coming. You know small operators pay huge money to big operators whenever interconnection is considered, so by tweaking the interconnect rate to favour small operators, we try to strike a balance; they still pay huge amount but at least we've mitigated it.
How do you achieve a balance between the consumers and operators?
The regulator is a referee; he stands between the operators and the consumers. His duty on the one hand is to provide consumers a plethora of products and of good quality. For operators, we have a mandate to safeguard their investment, so it is a tight balance. Anything that will prevent operators from investing further… the more they invest the better the product they give to consumers and the better the quality. It is a very narrow work to balance the interest of the operator with that of the consumer. And as you say, if both of them blame me, we're doing something that is correct.
Does it make you happy when you fine the operators?
Not really, we're here to obey our laws. We have made a regulation saying that you must attain some minimum QoS indices and we have published it in our regulation, and this is also a way of protecting the consumer for whom we have the mandate to give good quality. Here is where we have power to regulate the operators. If we see that they don't give good quality to consumers, we penalise them and when we are penalising them, we do that according to our laws. Nobody likes penalty but we have to stick to our laws. They have to comply with our regulations, and when they don't do that, we have an option to fine them. But if we fine them every time, we'll drive them out of business and we don't want that.
Why so much energy on broadband ?
Right from the time I came into the communications industry, I saw that the trend is changing from voice to data and data in the good form must be broadband. That's why you have good Internet, good video service and a plethora of services coming out of broadband. Apart from that, broadband is a development product, a product that is capable of increasing the GDP of
It took some time for this groundwork to be done, but we have started with a publication of our bid for the licensing of Infracos, which is actually the major foundation of our broadband intervention. I can tell you that the response is quite interesting; response from inside and outside the country. I can tell you that the
Why open access model?
The model is the leading model in the world. It encompasses the good things about access. It encompasses sharing of infrastructure, sharing of ownership. It encompasses competition because it structures the industry into primarily two layers- the wholesalers and retailers. If you're a wholesaler you cannot do retail. But most importantly, it provides open access to everybody at the same conditions. So, whether you're the biggest or smallest, you all have access to infrastructure. In
Why regulate the price?
We've left it to market forces, you've seen the result. The cost of say
Why does NCC adopt the use of unobtrusive regulatory style?
The trend of regulation now is towards what they call soft regulation. The infinite end of it is self-regulation where the regulator does nothing. But the industry in
Transparent auction of 2.3GHz frequency
We started by saying we're going to be firm, transparent and not going to play with our integrity. When we decided to do the auctioning we consulted the industry. We had more than two consultations with the industry. Some didn't like it while others liked it. But we as regulator must do what we think is best for the industry. So, we hired an auction consultant from the
Many nations are adopting the NCC template, why?
Well, in NCC, we have adopted a position that we must maintain transparency in everything. We must be firm for operators and stakeholders to comply with what we're doing and we must be dynamic in rolling out regulations and interventions, so the world has seen this. I can tell you that a few weeks ago we received military officers from
Why the code of corporate governance for telcos?
It is a primary objective of regulatory agencies that you consult your stakeholders before you carry out any intervention. Right from the start, we carried out three major consultations about this CCG with our stakeholders and then we involved them in the committee that worked out these codes. These codes are necessary because it is an investment of more than
What is the way forward for quality of service?
I am not comfortable with the position of QoS in
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