Globacom network subscribers will not be able to make calls to MTN lines from Wednesday 17 January until the Nigerian-owned operator settles the interconnect fees debt it owes.
According to sources close to the matter, the interconnect charges which started over 15 years ago have now accumulated into billions of naira which MTN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) can no longer ignore.
“Any time MTN reports to the NCC, and Adenuga sees that sanctions are about to be imposed, he will quickly pay some amount, only to let it accumulate again,” said one of the telecom sources. The network operator is also reportedly owing NCC in Annual Operating Levy (AOL). every operator pays it to NCC every year.
The NCC in a notice on Monday, said it has now approved partial disconnection of Globacom from MTN Nigeria Communications Plc due to non-settlement of interconnect charges.
The regulator also said it had notified Globacom of the application made by MTN, and the network was allowed to comment and state its case.
“The commission, having examined the application and circumstances surrounding the indebtedness, determined that Globacom does not have sufficient or justifiable reason for non-payment of the interconnect charges,” said the NCC in a statement signed by Reuben Muoka, director, Public Affairs Department, NCC.
Interconnection in telecommunication refers to an arrangement in which operators connect their equipment, networks, and services with other telecom service providers. The NCC is responsible for addressing matters related to interconnection and it also regulates interconnection charges.
Interconnection charges are the fees telecom service providers collect from other operators for completing calls originating from their network but terminating in another network. For instance, if a user originates a call, the user pays the access provider, who in turn pays termination charges to the network the user placed the call. Telecom companies in Nigeria charge for connecting the call and terminating it. The charges are used to cover the network usage costs as the operator on whose network the call terminates carries the call on its network to the customers, and this requires infrastructure investment.
In the case of Globacom, the operator began to accumulate the debt for the past fifteen years and efforts by MTN to get the debt settled have not been successful. Experts who pleaded anonymity to speak freely said the regulator NCC had failed to sanction Globacom because it was a Nigerian company and needed to protect it.
In terms of voice subscribers, Globacom has the second-largest number of subscribers in the industry with 61.39 million subscriptions. Disconnection implies that the operator’s subscribers will be partially locked out from reaching their friends, loved ones and business associates on the MTN network which has the largest number of subscribers with 85 million using the network.