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NCC begins public inquiry on six regulatory instruments, seeks to strengthen communications sector

By Chimezie Godfrey

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has commenced public inquiry on six regulatory instrument in order to ensure that the communications sector meets the demands of the digital age.

Delivering his welcome address at the flag off of the 3-day event, the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta appreciated participants comprising experts, stakeholders, and concerned citizens, all of who play a very important role in charting the course for the industry.

Prof. Danbatta noted that the Communications sector is at the forefront of innovation and advancements in technology geared towards driving economic growth and societal development.

“It affords seamless communication, fosters connectivity and thereby creates an enabling environment to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world.

“However, with the laudable advancements in the sector comes great responsibility on the part of government to ensure that there exists an enabling environment for the industry to thrive, through the introduction/amendment of key regulatory instruments.

“The regulatory instruments being considered during the course of this Public Inquiry are vital to ensuring that the communications sector meets the demands of the ever-evolving digital age,”he said.

The EVC further stated,”The first instrument, the Quality of Service Regulations, has been amended to ensure that the quality and standards of service are in line with current realities. It is pertinent to add that the Commission has also introduced Business Rules for Quality of Services, which comprises of all the various Quality of Service parameters, to ensure that they can be easily adapted to meet the ever evolving and changing trends in technology and different deployment approaches of the sector.

“The second instrument, the draft Guidelines on Corporate Governance for the communications sector has been introduced to promote transparency, accountability and ethical conduct in Communications companies. It is important to note that strong corporate governance is the cornerstone of a healthy and sustainable communications sector.

“The third instrument, which is the Commercial Satellite Guidelines, which is now intended to be Regulations, has been amended to address the growing demand for satellite services, satellite licensing and orbital slots, ensuring fair access for all stakeholders towards ensuring that the broadband penetration targets of the government are attained. The fourth Instrument, the Numbering Regulations, has comprehensively analyzed the current numbering regime to identify possible gaps and ensure it is adaptable to the ever-evolving needs of the sector.

“The Competition Practices Regulations has been amended to ensure that the current Regulations strike the right balance between encouraging healthy competition and safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders.

“Finally, the draft Data Protection Regulations has been developed to ensure that communications sector specific data is handled responsibly and with utmost care. Data Protection regulation has become exigent as our daily activities have become more intertwined with digital technologies and it is the responsibility of the Commission to ensure that the personal information and traffic data entrusted to communication service providers are handled responsibly and with utmost care.”

Prof Danbatta said the Public Inquiry affords an opportunity to critically examine and provide valuable insights on the draft instruments.

He said the expertise and perspectives of all stakeholders will help shape the final instruments that will govern the communications sector and determine their impact on society in the years ahead.

“I invite all participants to engage in meaningful and constructive discussions and elicit issues that will explore the potential strengths and weaknesses of the draft regulatory instruments, identify areas for improvement and propose innovative solutions to address the challenges ahead. Together we can create an environment that encourages innovation, empowers individuals and communities with the transformative potential of modern communications,” he said.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Director, Legal & Regulatory Services, NCC, Ms Helen Obi said the Public Inquiry is to address several significant amendments and introductions to “our regulatory instruments which we are proposing to the Nigerian Communications Industry as prescribed by Sections 70-72 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003”.

Obi said the exercise is aimed at ensuring that the industry continues to evolve and thrive, in accordance with “our commitment to uphold the highest standards of service”.

She disclosed that the first review is the amendment of the Quality of Service (QoS) Regulations, 2013.

According to her, quality of service is central to the quality of user experience, and it is vital that we maintain, and enhance the standards of service that our consumers receive.

She said,”The proposed amendment to the QoS Regulations intends to introduce stricter performance standards, more robust monitoring mechanisms and more transparent reporting systems that will improve the overall customer experience.

“More importantly, these changes will also drive operators to enhance their networks and services through efficient deployment and network optimization processes. Clearly, these expectations will ultimately foster a culture of continual improvement which is essential for the competitiveness and vitality of our industry.

“Next, we look to the amendment of the Commercial Satellite Guidelines. As we embrace the potential of space technologies, it is critical that we do so responsibly. The amendments will provide clearer procedures for licensing and operation of satellite communications services, promote the use of satellite technology for deepening broadband penetration for national development and ensure compliance with international obligations.

“In addition, we are introducing Corporate Governance Guidelines for the Communications Industry. These Guidelines will set a clear framework for operators, ensuring that their operations are transparent, accountable, and adhere to international standards of corporate governance. This will not only enhance the reputation of our industry but also bolster investor confidence.”

She revealed that the Commission is also introducing Data Protection Regulations for the Communications Industry.

“In the digital age, data protection is not an option; it is a necessity. The Regulation will establish a robust framework for data privacy, ensuring that operators respect the rights of individuals while also leveraging on data for innovation and growth.

“Subsequently, we look to the amendment of the Competition Practice Regulations, 2007. This instrument has been at the heart of ensuring a level playing field for all operators in our industry. Yet, as the industry changes, so must our Regulations. The proposed amendments aim to strengthen our anti-competitive behavior checks, enhance consumer welfare and encourage innovation among operators.

“Finally, we look to the amendment of the Numbering Plan Regulations. These Regulations will ensure the orderly assignment and use of numbers that are central to the operation of any communications system.

“The proposed changes will allow for more efficient use of number resources, support the introduction of new services and better align our numbering plan with international best practices,” she said.

Obi noted that over the years the Nigerian Communications Industry has made considerable strides.

“We have seen exponential growth in mobile penetration, broadband infrastructure and digital services.

“We have fostered competition, encouraged innovation, and enhanced consumer protection. Therefore, the proposed regulatory instruments are designed to build on the progress we have made and to steer the industry towards a future that is even more vibrant, competitive, and innovative.

“They will ensure that we continue to provide high-quality services, protect the rights of consumers, and attract investment.

“We recognize that these are significant changes, and we are committed to ensuring that they are implemented in a way that is fair and transparent.

“The Public Inquiry is an integral part of that process. It is a testament to our commitment to engage with all stakeholders and to make decisions that are informed, balanced and in the best interest of the Nigerian people,” Obi said.

She expressed optimism that with the contributions of all relevant stakeholders the industry can be shapened to become an industry that is strong, dynamic and serves the needs of all Nigerians.

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