As global telecommunications trends change, influencing daily lives and livelihoods, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the regulatory body in Nigeria, is currently contending with a pronounced quality crisis that has overshadowed the industry’s reputation. This regression has become particularly noticeable during Prof Isa Pantami‘s leadership, leading to a substantial deviation from NCC quality standards and a concerning deterioration in service quality.
Operators, once held accountable for maintaining stringent quality benchmarks, have experienced a lax regulatory environment, leading to a noticeable deterioration in the overall user experience for consumers.
The NCC’s role as a watchdog for the telecommunication industry, on multiple occasions, has come under scrutiny, with industry insiders pointing to a lack of sanctions for operators failing to meet the previously established benchmarks. The consequences of this neglect are palpable, as the quality gap widens, leaving consumers frustrated and dissatisfied.
Despite the recent launch of 5G by three operators (MTN, Airtel, and Glo), the telecommunications sector in Nigeria grapples with a significant lack of innovative products to complement this advanced technology. This scarcity in innovative offerings contrasts with previous advancements such as 4G and 3G. Particularly noticeable is the absence of device incentives to encourage 5G usage, creating a disparity that requires immediate attention.
Additionally, it highlights a lack of assessment on the part of the NCC and operators to comprehend the demand, while overlooking existing gaps in the telecommunications landscape. To make matters worse, the existing 4G is plagued with issues of slow connection speed.
This technological lag not only affects the user experience but also raises questions about the industry’s preparedness for future advancements.
Beyond technological concerns, there exists a pronounced coverage gap in underserved markets. According to NCC reports, approximately 35 million Nigerians lack access to internet or telecom services. This deficiency aligns with the World Bank’s assertion that internet access can lift 7 per cent of Nigerians out of poverty. The apparent failure of the NCC and operators to bridge this gap raises questions about their alignment with broader government objectives, particularly in addressing socioeconomic disparities.
The sector faced neglect during the tenure of former CBN Governor Emefiele, further complicating matters. While other industries enjoyed sectoral funds exceeding 100 billion, the telecom sector struggled with credit access. Emefiele faced accusations of hindering the survival deal of Etisalat and subsequently reversing course to acquire the company.