The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has granted approval to Airtel, MTN and IHS to disconnect eight telecommunications operators over non-settlement of interconnect and facility charges.
The commission gave the approval in a notice dated December 18, in line with the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.
Interconnect debt arises when an operator fails to settle the cost of termination of service rendered to it by another operator in the industry.
The affected telco operators are Globacom Limited (Globacom), NATCOM Development and Investment Limited (Ntel), and Smile Communications Limited (Smile).
Others are Breeze Micro Limited (Breeze), Exchange Telecommunications Limited (Exchange), Solid Interconnectivity Services Limited (Solid), Medallion Communications Limited (Medallion) and Niconnx Communications Limited (Niconnx).
While the first three will be disconnected partially, the remaining five would be fully disconnected at the expiration of the notice period which is 10 and 21 days respectively.
This means that at the expiration of the notice, subscribers using Globacom, Ntel or Smile may experience service disruptions when making outbound calls to the Airtel and MTN network.
For Breeze, Exchange, Solid, Medallion and Niconnx – all exchange points – the NCC said at the expiration of the notice, “MTN and Airtel will cease passing and receiving voice and data traffic…and instead utilise alternative channels in interconnecting with other Network Service Providers”.
“The commission has approved the partial disconnection of Ntel and Globacom to Airtel and MTN in accordance with Section 100 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 and the Guidelines on Procedure for Granting Approval to Disconnect Telecommunications Operators,” the statement read.
“At the expiration of 10 days from the date of this notice, subscribers on the network of Ntel and Globacom will no longer be able to make calls to Airtel and MTN, but will be able to receive calls. Furthermore, Ntel and Globacom will be disconnected from the facilities of IHS.
“The Commission having examined the applications and circumstances surrounding the indebtedness determined that Smile, Ntel and Globacom do not have sufficient reason (s) for non-payment of interconnect and facility charges.”
In June, Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC, had said there was a rising “debt crisis” in the industry that the commission was working hard to resolve.
After the NCC set a July deadline for payment, debtor companies had agreed to settle the interconnect debt which was put at N165 billion at the time.