By ADEDEJI ADEYEMI FAKOREDE
THE Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is set to implement a national mobile roaming strategy that will help operators in the country strengthen their operations and compete favourably.
The national mobile roaming is the ability of a cellular customer to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services, including data services, when travelling outside the coverage area of the home network, by means of using a visited network.
According to the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, even though it was technically possible to provide facility for domestic roaming, appropriate legal and regulatory framework have to be in place in order to encourage as well as assist the operators in realising roaming arrangement between them without any uncertainty.
He said there was need to ensure that the policies, rules and regulation to be adopted regarding national roaming are formulated in detailed discussion with the operators as they are the main entities responsible for the successful implementation of the domestic roaming facility.
Danbatta therefore urged concerned stakeholders, experts and any interested party to send their comments, suggestions or inputs to the commission within two weeks.
Danbatta said the comments and inputs provided by the stakeholders would aid the commission in formulating a regulatory instrument on national mobile roaming.
NCC explained that such arrangements effectively multiply a carrier’s ability to cover those areas where they do not have the presence of their own network, without actually having to deploy infrastructure.
According to it, prior agreement between operators enables the subscribers to roam into another network in case the home network is not available, adding it is believed to be simpler and less costly to manage than active infrastructure sharing and may also ensure effective competition through a greater degree of uniformity among operators’ retail offerings.
NCC listed benefits of implementing national mobile roaming to include extra source of revenue for both mobile network operators; less investment costs since infrastructure sharing divides the investment burden among the operators rather than being shouldered by a single operator; promote efficient use of resources; easy market entry; better choice of service; less negative environmental impact and promote universal service provision.
The commission said through the consultation, it would want to know from experts and stakeholders, the impact national mobile roaming will have on the following areas: quality of service; roll-out obligations of operators; mobile number portability scheme; investment in the telecoms sector.
Others are should the commission mandate the national mobile roaming or leave it to the market force? If left to the market force, will operators voluntarily implement roaming between their networks?; If national mobile roaming is agreed, then how long will it take to be technically ready for providing service to the subscribers of other domestic operators?.
The commission also wants to know and seek explanation as to the costs involved in implementing national roaming; what sort of billing system should be used in carrying out national mobile roaming?
Contribution should also include which mobile services should be included in the national mobile roaming package. Besides voice and SMS, should data roaming including MMS, Video-call, among others also be included.
Largely, NCC said the provision of national mobile roaming services is technically feasible but there are several pertinent issues, which need to be addressed.
“It is therefore imperative to put in place an appropriate legal and regulatory framework to ensure that operators realize smooth roaming arrangements between them without any uncertainty”, it stated.