Dominance in the telecoms industry, the dilemma of size


Stories Olabisi Olaleye 08094000013, 08111813040

In spite of the general belief in the country that the biggest operator automatically calls the shots and oppresses other operators, Daily Sun’s findings indicates that there is more to size than meets the eye.

From the  NCC’s  Competition Practices Regulation(CPR), of 2007 “Dominance is a position of economic strength in one or more  specifically defined communications markets, such that, they have the ability to unilaterally restrict output, raise prices, reduce quality or otherwise act independently of competitors or consumers…”.

According to the NCC, Nigeria’s mobile voice market was not effectively competitive, and MTN designated a dominant operator (based on control of 44 per cent market share and possibility of “calling clubs”).  In fixed voice, there was a decline; no dominant operator was identified, while fixed data was also a nascent market, which no dominant operator was identified. There was no effectively competitive; no dominant operator identified in mobile data. While the upstream segment, which was said to be not effectively competitive; had Globacom and MTN designated as ‘joint dominant operators’ in the wholesale leased lines and transmission capacity sub‐segments. And downstream segment  – also had no dominance”. At the end of the 2013 study,  the NCC declared MTN a dominant operator because it had a market share of 44 per cent. NCC went ahead to declare MTN a dominant operator even though it only controlled about 20 per cent market share in the transmission market, while no other operator (some of whom had around 20 per cent) was declared as jointly dominant with MTN in the voice market.

Telecom experts note that unlike 2013, in 2009 when NCC did a similar study it painstakingly followed the NC/CPR procedure and relied on clear, open empiric data to find the market to be sufficiently competitive. MTN was not declared a dominant operator then, even though MTN had a market share of 41.2 per cent.

Naturally, dominance should come with both responsibilities and privileges, particularly because in Nigeria’s case, MTN and the other larger operators earned that status through active competition, and not due to any special treatment from the regulator. Daily Sun’s investigations however reveal that Nigeria’s dominant operator’s hands are tied most often owing to its dominance status.  This has resulted in making the dominant operator a sacrificial lamb for others to grow.

As stated by an official of the company who asked for anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press, “The collapse of off-net/on-net differentials eliminated any ability to present flexible options to MTN’s customers. MTN tariffs automatically made more expensive than other networks. Only two tariffs were approved for over six months”.  The official  also noted that the “The characteristics of the Nigerian market with over 50 per cent multi-SIMing ratio made the obligations particularly destructive of MTN’s market competitiveness”. He also noted that when  telecoms umpire , Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), compelled MTN to introduce the flat tariff , and other operators were allowed to continue to offer flexible tariffs, no one complained about it, because it only affected the business interest of MTN. As the official noted, the impact of these measures were very hard on MTN because  Nigeria is one of the most price-sensitive markets and that any measure which denies a player of tariff flexibility automatically makes its services less competitive than its peers.

Speaking on MTN’s growth,  MTN’s Public Relations Manager, Mr. Funso Aina noted that “MTN gained its leadership position through very aggressive investments and active competition, starting at a time when few foreign investors had faith in Nigeria. According to him, “NCC itself acknowledged that through our robust network rollout, contributed to the leapfrog of telephone subscriber base from the paltry figure of 500,000 in 2001 to over 108 million as at December 2012”. And also that MTN “ painstakingly and deservedly earned ” its dominant position in the mobile voice segment of the Nigerian telecoms market.

However, industry experts consider the  obligations imposed on MTN rather unfair because they are the sort imposed on former national monopolies who gained market dominance as a result of reliance on government funding, public infrastructure, or other preferential treatment.

The experts also told Daily Sun  that dominance is not wrong in itself, and also that transitory factors may soon eliminate current dominance.  They noted that since  punishments can only be imposed when an operator declared dominant contravenes the regulations or carries out activities deemed to be an “abuse of its dominant position or an anti-competitive practice”, there is no need to penalize the dominant operator.  Corroborating this view, the unnamed MTN official noted that no finding of abuse was made against MTN – the “calling club effect” is a common practice on all networks. Detailed provisions for investigation of abuse in Ss. 10 &22 CPR and its schedule were not followed. It therefore appeared that the penalties were based on the unfair presumption that market size/”dominance” should be penalized. Industry experts note that this has effectively been rewarding market inefficiency to Nigeria’s detriment  because no investor will invest aggressively in the industry for fear of being penalized for success.

Experts therefore lauded the recent decision of the NCC to allow MTN 30 per cent, which they consider as a head start towards ensuring full competition, even though still discriminatory. They were therefore surprised when Etisalat took NCC and MTN to court  over this 30 per cent relief, claiming that it is a threat to its market growth and profitability. The MTN official called this a disturbing development since in his opinion, Etisalat had grown its market share by piggy-backing on the other operators and enjoying generous concessions from the NCC, such as the asymmetric interconnect rates which allowed it to pay much less interconnect charges to MTN and other operators.

Daily Sun made concerted efforts to contact NCC for clarification but this has so far proved abortive.

Efforts to also reach Etisalat’s Head of Corporate Communications, Chineze Amanfo on phone also proved abortive as at the time of filing this report.

Online jobs to grow by $5bn in 2018

…As Nigerian youths get Etisalat’s back up

The Programme Manager, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Oluwatosin Abolaji,has explained that the digital jobs industry is estimated to grow globally to about $5 billion  by 2018, therefore it is important to expose the youth to opportunities in digital/online jobs.

According to him, PIN is a social enterprise that connects Nigerian youths with ICT-enabled opportunities.

Meanwhile, Etisalat Nigeria  has also drummed support for the initiative by tasking Nigerian youths to look beyond their current circumstance and break any limitation that may be standing between them and their dream.

Head, Marketing Communications, Etisalat Nigeria, Gerald Osugo, gave the advice when the Etisalat team visited and inspired a group of youths, who were undergoing Information Communication Technology (ICT) training at the Paradigm Initiative Network (PIN) Centre in Lagos, in commemoration of the 2015 United Nations International Youth Day last week.

He stressed that the rewards within the ICT space are remarkable. Noting that Etisalat has been at the forefront of youth empowerment by promoting initiatives that help them reach their full potential.

“Etisalat has developed several platforms that are geared towards adding value to the youth. Last year a young Nigerian won the Etisalat Prize for Innovation when he came up with an innovative ICT solution called Exammate which helps students to study for examinations,” he disclosed.

Glo Wi-Fi roaming facilities for subscribers 

Subscribers on the network of Globacom, will now enjoy Wi-Fi roaming facilities anytime they travel out of Nigerian shores.

In a press statement issued in Lagos  and endorsed by Globacom’s Chief Commercial Director, Mr. Ajay Mathur,  Glo Wi-Fi roaming service affords subscribers who travel outside the country the ultimate mobile internet experience in over 300,000 hotspots in 42 countries.

According to him, subscribers on  Glo prepaid and postpaid platforms are able to enjoy ultra fast Wi-Fi speeds on their mobile device or tablet in popular locations such as airports, hotels, restaurants, stadia and coffee shops in the countries where the offer is available.

Source : SunOnline

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