By Ismail Auwal
The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has released national roaming guidelines to ensure and facilitate seamless communications among Mobile Service Providers in Nigeria.
According to the Nigerian telecommunications regulator, in the exercise of the powers conferred upon it by Section 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 and other enabling powers in that regard, the Commission hereby makes these Guidelines to help address issues and solve the problem of poor network coverage by service providers in some areas.
The National Roaming Guideline provides mobile service providers with a regulatory framework for the implementation of National Roaming services in Nigeria.
Speaking on this, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and CEO of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the primary objective of the National Roaming Service trial was to encourage network resource sharing among operators.
He also stated that this would lead to operational expenditure (OPEX) optimisation and capital expenditure (CAPEX) efficiencies leading to freeing up of resources to expand mobile network coverage to unserved and underserved communities across the country, which will lead to improved Quality of Service (QoS) delivery to subscribers.
About National Roaming
The National Roaming Guidelines will help a customer of service provider A who moves to a location within the country where only the network of service provider B is available to automatically connect to the available service provider.
Hitherto, only those that travel out of the country have been benefitting from international roaming service, which allows them to make and receive calls on foreign networks through their sim cards.
Under the guidelines, NCC said “duly authorised service providers shall request and negotiate National Roaming Agreements with each other on bilateral and non-discriminatory terms, ” and the regulator has fixed the duration of any national roaming agreement between service providers at three years, renewable for another three years.
The Commission said a roaming seeker requesting for National Roaming services shall forward a duly completed Roaming Request Form A contained under Schedule1 of these Guidelines to the Roaming Provider and the roaming provider shall within 15 days of receipt of the roaming request notify the roaming seeker of its acceptance by completing the relevant section of the Response to Roaming Request Form B contained under Schedule 1 of the Guidelines.
NCC pointed out that “Where the roaming seeker receives no response from the roaming provider within 15 days of its request, the roaming seeker shall immediately notify the commission in writing, and the commission shall take necessary steps to ensure the roaming provider responds to the roaming request.”
The Visited Network shall make every effort to make sure that the Roamer enjoys the same level of availability as its own customers and maintain such level as contained under the Quality of Service Regulations developed by the Commission.
Quality of Service and Experience
The Visited Network shall offer the same quality of service to the Roamer on the agreed Roaming Technology and as well provide network Key Performance Indicators for all clusters under the roaming arrangement.
The commission however stressed that a party that defaults in complying with quality of service requirements under the Quality of Service Regulations shall be responsible for any infraction traced to its network.
NCC also highlighted that service support for Roamers (i.e. resolution of complaints by subscribers) shall be the responsibility of the Home Network while the Home Network shall reserve not more than 25% of spare capacity for its short term or emergency need.
NCC clearly stated that parties shall ensure that adequate security measures are deployed to protect their respective networks and shall agree mutually on a process to mitigate against fraud associated with Roaming.
However, fraud enabled by flaws in other network business areas shall be the responsibility of the concerned network.
Roaming partners shall agree not to benefit from any fraudulent incident. Any settlement between the parties will be at cost level computation, where fraud is established, NCC stated.
The Home and Visited Network shall further agree on a process to mitigate against the following common fraudulent practices:
• Interoperability fault due to differences in equipment vendor.
• Time delay in exchange of data.
• Network configuration flaws.
• Call masking and other frauds associated with Roaming.
The guidelines provided some other safety nets to forestall undue corporate bully and arm-twisting among the service providers.
These are that:
Parties shall thereafter enter into a Non-Disclosure Agreement and commence negotiations of the terms of the National Roaming Agreement.
Parties shall conclude negotiations on the terms of the National Roaming Agreement and execute the same within 60 days from receipt of the Roaming Request.
Parties shall ensure that the National Roaming Agreement is submitted to the Commission for review and approval, prior to registration, within 14 days of execution by parties.
If within 15 days from the date of submission the Commission does not act on the National Roaming Agreement, such shall be deemed approved and registered.
The release of the guidelines followed a successful trial carried out last year. As part of preparations to launch into the national roaming era, the NCC had last year approved a trial of the system for two mobile network operators, MTN and 9mobile.
With the approval, the two operators configured their networks for test and simulation for customer experience. The trial approval, according to the NCC, covered a few local governments, designated as the National Roaming geographic area in Ondo State.