Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection suggests that ‘life is a competitive struggle to survive in the midst of limited resources’. Darwin declares that: “living things must compete for food and space. They must evade the ravages of predators and disease while dealing with unpredictable shifts in their environments, such as changes in climate”. Darwin also posited that within a given population in a given environment, certain individuals possess characteristics that make them more likely to survive.
The theory, though an early effort to explain the process of competition and development of species, has become relevant to even organic structures in today’s industrial society. For men and enterprises to survive and advance, they must have the innate capacity to compete and withstand the vagaries of competition. They must adapt quickly to change and display an uncanny dynamism in order to remain relevant and alive.
By extension, business organisations as living entities, must rapidly adapt and evolve based on the dynamics of a changing world and technology to survive and thrive. Nigeria’s telecom sector has been the country’s most rapidly evolving sector since its inception. So incisive has been its growth that from less than half a million analogue telephone connections, wireless telephony has spread to almost 80 percent of the population in less than two decades.
However, the major challenge has been that the operators/investors in the sector have not rapidly adopted strategies to meet with the demands of their subscribers. In this wise, the growth of the sector has not translated to commensurate development in terms of the quality of services rendered. This is notwithstanding the stringent competition among these investors for market dominance.
The good thing about competition is that it breeds efficiency and better quality assurance. This is what most Nigerians have expected and failed to get from the major players in the nation’s GSM market. The persistent poor service has been the root of animosity between ordinary Nigerians who, now, rightly or wrongly have the impression that the telecom companies are just in the business to rip-off the people with the active connivance of the regulator – in this case, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
In order to address such notions, the NCC instituted the Telecom Consumers Parliament where the commission, the operators and the consumers meet to straighten out issues relating to the quality and value of service amongst others. The forum has often created mutual understanding and lessened friction between the consuming public and the investors and has been a useful channel of communication between them with the regulator serving as monitor and moderator.
But it would appear that after such interactions, the operators usually retire to their abodes with a redoubled intent to continue with their misdemeanours and provocations against the public. This is why the imposition of sanctions on some service providers by the NCC is a considered a welcome development, albeit, a deserved punishment. The NCC had levied the trio of MTN, Globacom and Aitel to the tune of N647.5 million for breaching key performance indicators (KPI) in the month of January, 2014.
Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah, said the sanctions on three service providers was a necessary step to arrest the continued failure by operators to meet with the regulations on performance indicators, for acceptable quality of services in the country.
Addressing the media in the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the EVC said the Commission has endured a period of 18 months during which it reduced the KPI’s for the operators but regretted there was no significant improvement from the three operators as they promised. It should be noted that one operator, Etisalat, was not found wanting.
“We have to take a more drastic action to improve user experience in the network. There are issues with capacity of the networks, and it would appear that the service providers load up the network as soon as there are some expansions. The issue with capacity must be resolved for user experience to improve.”
Such loading up of the network, he observed, results in the continued negative indication on the quality of service. He said after the first round of sanctions in 2012, the Commission had reached an understanding with all the service providers that the KPI’s upon which they were sanctioned should be reduced over a period of 18 months during which the service providers will make significant improvement through provision of more infrastructure and achieve a progressive improvement in quality of service.
“We are a listening regulator. For 18 months, we waited and we said “no fine”. We lowered the KPIs. We listened to them, and we took notes on all the issues. Gave advice where needed. But we did not see the results in user experience and even the readings upon which they were sanctioned were obtained from their switches.
“It means that we have to hold them to their promise and we have to get back to the original KPI’s as prescribed by the regulations,” he said. Juwah said the sanction was not about understanding the issues responsible for poor quality of service but implementing the regulations addressing quality of service. He said it would appear that any improvement that operators make in expanding the network is followed with loading up the systems, which results in continued negative indication on quality of service without recourse to the provisions of the regulation on QOS.
The NCC boss said going forward; the Commission will establish secondary switches that will capture user experience after which it will compare the results with those of drive tests such that engineers from the service providers will also see the user experience as it concerns quality of service. “We have been on this for too long. User experience must improve. We will not sacrifice the enormous successes recorded in the industry to continued poor quality of service. As a regulator, we must take action and that is the reason for the sanction which is a prescription of a regulation.
He said after the sanctions which include stoppage of promotions on the networks, in addition to barring them from admitting more customers in the month of March, 2014, the Commission will continue to take the necessary steps towards addressing issue of QoS until it is resolved in the interest of the consumers. This bold step, it is hoped, will assuage aggrieved subscribers who have always suspected the Commission of looking the other way as operators fleece them.

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Bamidele, a telecoms engineer wrote in from Ibadan