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NCC directs telcos to resolve debt dispute

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Globacom subscribers will still be able to call MTN lines for another 21 days, the Nigerian Communications Commission has disclosed.

This is as the commission postponed its planned barring of Glo subscribers from calling MTN lines for 21 days.

The commission disclosed this Thursday morning in a statement signed by Director, Public Affairs, Reuben Mouka, as a follow-up to its Pre-Disconnection Notice issued on January 8, 2024.

In the first notice, the commission stated that it had approved MTN Nigerian Communications Plc. to commence the phased disconnection of Globacom Limited with effect from January 18, 2024, due to a long-standing interconnection debt dispute between the parties.

Announcing its extension, the NCC said, “The Commission is pleased to announce that the parties have now reached an agreement to resolve all outstanding issues between them. For this reason, and in exercise of its regulatory powers in that regard, the commission has put the phased disconnection on hold for a period of 21 (twenty-one) days from today, 17 January 2024.

“Whilst the commission expects MTN and Glo to resolve all outstanding issues within the 21-day period, the commission insists that interconnect debts must be settled by all operating companies as a necessary component towards compliance with regulatory obligations of all licensees.”

It noted that its approval for disconnection would have potential impacts on consumers. In its extension notice, the NCC stressed that Mobile Network Operators and other licensees in the telecom industry must keep to the terms and conditions of their licenses, especially as contained in their interconnection agreements.

Earlier on Thursday, The PUNCH published that the commission is set to advise Globacom subscribers on the next steps following the expiration of a 10-day grace period for the barring of their lines from making calls to MTN lines.

Muoka said on Wednesday, “We will come out with some information about that. Most likely today, in the next few hours.”

Providing further context on the issue on Thursday at a briefing with the media, the new Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr Aminu Maida, said, “The commission has intervened because the primary issue for us is the consumer. The key thing is that both parties are on the table and there is a commitment to solving the issues within the next 21 days.”

He stated that the commission was also creating a framework to create a permanent solution to the issue of interconnect debt in the industry.

In his address, he noted that the commission will focus its strategy on improving quality of experience for telecommunication consumers and try to minimise the need for a double sim regime in the country.

Interconnect charge is the price telecom operators pay each other for calls terminating on their networks. MTN and Glo have been at loggerheads over this fee for a period. In 2019, MTN briefly disconnected Glo subscribers over a N4bn debt.

A source close to Glo has since said the telco has paid. The source told , “We paid last week Thursday within the window allowed. So, it is surprising that this is happening. We made outstanding payments already.”

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