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MTN Nigeria wants better protection for telcos

MTN Nigeria wants better protection for telcos

MTN Nigeria claims its local business is being adversely impacted by Whatsapp and other non-tax paying products.

Ferdinand Moolman, MTN Nigeria CEO said the company's revenues are being depleted by Over the Top (OTT) products including Whatsapp and Viber.

Speaking at a public hearing on communication in Abuja, Moolman said his company supports the move by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to increase the cost of data in the country in a bid to allow new entrants to acquire market share and operate profitably.

Whatsapp and other similar services, he said, threaten the sustainability of the telecoms industry in Nigeria.

Moolman told the Senate committee headed by Adeola Olamilekan, various indices are badly affecting the industry. "Despite the macro-economic challenges, telecom tariffs have declined significantly (over 67% between 2007 and 2016) and data prices are amongst the lowest on the continent. With this in mind, MTN looks forward to the cost study as confirmed by the NCC, and remains committed to working with the Regulator and industry to ensure fair value and fair competition in the Nigerian market."

"The depletion of operator revenues by unlicensed providers of "over-the-top" telecoms services who do not have any physical presence; nor pay any taxes; nor make any significant contribution to employment or other socio-economic objectives of government in Nigeria – is worrisome. Companies like WhatsApp and Viber are eroding gains of Nigeria's telecom companies," he said.

Moolman urged the government to take drastic steps to protect the interests of telecommunications companies, and referred to the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) and its enforcement of limited access to OTT services.

He added that the inability of operators in the country to access foreign exchange is worrisome and negatively impacting the ecosystem.

"This is particularly debilitating given that most of our inputs are sourced off-shore. This has very significantly increased both operating and capital expenses," he said.

Nigerian telecoms company, Globacom has called on authorities not to interfere with the prices of telecoms services and stated its position that floor pricing should be left to market forces and not to the regulator.

In response the NCC's Director of Public Affair, Tony Ojobo, affirmed that it cannot allow market forces to determine the prices of calls and data in the country.

"NCC cannot allow market forces to determine the price of call tariff, if we do this, a lot of the operators are going to go out of the market and it will result in either a monopoly or a duopoly. Monopoly is not known for efficient service delivery," he said.

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