GSM operators to offer national roaming services

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There are indications that soon, mobile telephony users in the country will be able to enjoy seamless network services even when they move to areas that are either not covered or partially covered by the networks they subscribed to.

The industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, has started a process that will culminate in the mobile operators being mandated to offer national roaming services to subscribers of the different networks on a reciprocal basis.

National roaming, according to the NCC, refers to the ability of a cellular subscriber to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services when travelling outside the coverage area of the home network by using a visited network.

“It is a type of service or facility, which enables the subscriber of one operator to utilise the facilities of another operator with whom the subscriber has no direct pre-existing service or contractual relationship to place an outgoing call or receive an incoming call,” the regulatory agency explained.

As part of the process, the NCC recently gathered relevant stakeholders, including operators and other licensees, in a closed door consultative meeting chaired by the commission’s Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Mr. Ubale Maska.

A report on the meeting obtained by our correspondent on Wednesday showed that all stakeholders agreed that the service had become imperative. While some wanted it as soon as the third quarter of the year, others said the service should commence in January 2017.

In an opening remark at the meeting, Maska said the NCC expected that national roaming would promote seamless communication by subscribers as they would be able to roam on the networks of other service providers where their own service providers were unavailable or had limited network coverage.

Notwithstanding, he noted that the commission was mindful of the possible negative impact that national roaming might have on quality of service, Mobile Number Portability, fair competition, billing and reconciliation, and appropriate roaming agreements.

According to him, other issues that may arise when national roaming is allowed such as the extent of regulation required and the possibility that operators may relax in their efforts to roll out infrastructure in underpopulated areas in anticipation that another operator will do so and provide roaming services in those areas.

However, it was agreed that national roaming would reduce the cost that the operators would incur in setting up their own individual infrastructure as it could serve as another form of infrastructure sharing.

While some participants at the consultative forum agreed that national roaming should be mandated by the NCC, others think it should be allowed to run as a voluntary commercial agreement among the operators.

Roaming is much more pronounced across national boundaries with subscribers having to pay in several jurisdictions even for receiving calls when they roam their mobile phones abroad.

Source: Punch Newspaper

 

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