For several days, subscribers of both MTN Nigeria and Globacom looking to connect with each other tried in vain not knowing if it was their phone or just the usual patchy network challenges common with Nigeria’s GSM services.
But unknown to the subscribers, they were at the receiving end of an ongoing dispute between the two of Nigeria’s largest mobile network providers, MTN and Globacom.
MTN Nigeria reportedly banned incoming calls from Glo users for at least five days over the latter’s failure to pay its interconnection debts. According to reports, the debt burden and the accrued interest had risen to N4.4 billion.
Interconnection rate is the price that telecommunications operators pay each other for calls terminating on their networks. The interconnection rates were fixed at N3.90 per minute 2G/3G/4G operators; N4.70 for LTE operators, while the international termination rate of N24.40 was sustained.
Out of the total debt, Globacom only paid the sum of N500 million. This informed MTN’s decision to ban calls from the Globacom affecting about 46.6 million Globacom subscribers and as well as MTN network users.
The MTN decision was backed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), who had December 2018 granted approval to mobile network operators to disconnect other operators over rising interconnection debts and failure of the affected operators to pay.
NCC had in a letter instructed MTN, Airtel and the IHS to disconnect, on a partial basis, the services to Globacom, Ntel and some interconnection exchange points.
This decision was taken after several pleas, meetings and payment deadlines issued to Globacom to fulfill its financial obligations failed to achieve the desired result.
The ban was however lifted after stakeholders intervened in the dispute, with an insider stating that pressure was mounted on MTN because of the wide-ranging implications this could have on subscribers and the sector in general.
While MTN Nigeria informed the NCC about its decision to go ahead it appears it did not inform its subscribers. This may have also been a factor in the decision to lift the ban.
Globacom is yet to brief its users why they experienced disconnection of calls to MTN, neither as it informed them that the network is back to normal. This showed that both companies do not have any respect for their subscribers.