Outrage over telcos plan to hike data, voice call tariffs

The plan by telecommunication operators in Nigeria to hike tariffs for data and voice calls appears not to have gone down well with Nigerians, warning that any move to further impoverish them would be resisted.


The planned resistance is coming on the heels of a joint statement released yesterday, by the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).


The bodies urged the federal government to consider a price hike after 11 years freeze, reports Daily Sun.


According to the joint statement, the associations argued that the telecommunications sector is the only industry that has not adjusted prices despite rising inflation and high cost of doing business which they attributed to regulations that restrict them from setting appropriate prices.


“ALTON and ATCON respectfully reiterate that telecommunications infrastructure development requires substantial investments in network expansion, maintenance, and technology upgrades,” the statement stated.


But in a swift reaction, the Association of Telephone, Cable TV and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS) and the National Association of Telecommunication Subscribers (NATCOMS), condemned the move to increase service prices, saying they strongly oppose any price hike.


ATCIS President, Sina Bilesanmi, who took a more confrontational stance argued that Nigerians are already struggling financially and any further pressure on their earnings was capable of impoverishing them.


Bilesanmi reiterated the importance of subscriber involvement in such decisions, alluding to earlier promises from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to involve them in such decision making process.


Also commenting, NATCOMS President, Mr. Adeolu Ogunbanjo, warned against any form of excessive price hike.


Ogunbanjo while acknowledging the economic challenges faced by operators advocated for a minimal increase as against oner that would create a hole in the pockets of consumers.


A cross section of Nigerians who spoke to our correspondents in separate interviews kicked against the hike in voice and data tariffs describing the move as inhuman and insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.


A boutique owner at Surulere, Mrs Ada Nnamdi, told our correspondent that network has been terrible in her area in recent time, saying “I am not even enjoying making calls, as network has not been steady. Let them give us quality service.”


A 100 level student at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ayomide Tunde, said: ”increasing tariff at this time we are is just inhuman. Things have become so expensive lately, especially food stuffs. I can barely eat three times in a day. If not that I cannot do without data because I need it for research, I would have ignored it.”


For Miss Tunde, she appealed to government to stop telecoms operators from increasing tariff because they are still making huge profit despite the harsh operating environment.


A respondent who pleaded anonymity said: “Telecoms have been increasing tariff without us knowing.How do you explain the fact that I bought 3GB of data which cannot last for a month? But, three years ago, I used one GB of data for a whole month. Operators have been stealing from us.”


The Telcos added that: “Despite the adverse economic headwinds, the telecommunications industry remains the only industry yet to review its general service pricing framework upward in the last 11 years, primarily due to regulatory constraints.


ATCON and ALTON call upon the government to facilitate a constructive dialogue with industry stakeholders to address pricing challenges and establish a framework that balances consumers’ affordability with operators’ financial viability.”


The operators also called for government action to address telecommunications industry challenges such as taxation, regulations, right of way (RoW), charges, inadequate power supply, and infrastructure vandalism.


They also asked the government to implement legislation that designates telecommunications infrastructure as critical national infrastructure.


“Telecommunications infrastructure undisputedly plays a pivotal role in Nigeria’s national security and socioeconomic growth, especially as the country currently contends with multiple security challenges that require urgent and immediate actions in response to these threats.


“Attacks on cell towers, fibre optic cables, and other critical assets disrupt telecommunications services and result in significant financial losses for operators.”


They urged the government to prioritise the security of telecommunications infrastructure and collaborate with law enforcement agencies to strengthen security protocols and successfully resist sabotage and vandalism.


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