….Launching its Telecom Consumer Assistance, Resolution and Enquiries (TELCARE) Desk
By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reeled out policies it has implemented between March 15, 2022, and today, that further strengthened consumer protection while at the same time safeguarding the interest of telecom consumers.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta disclosed this on Wednesday in an event to mark the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day held at NCC Annex head office, Mbora Abuja.
Sundiata Post recalls that the theme of 2023 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is: “Empowering Consumer Through Clean Energy Transitions.”
According to the EVC, the theme is geared towards delivering a smooth transition for consumers experiencing a high cost of living as the globe responds to the ongoing energy crisis caused by supply and climate issues, adding that the theme is very relevant given Nigeria’s recent licensing of the 5G spectrum networks, which consume twice as much energy as 4Gs, although they are more energy-efficient per gigabyte.
In addition to continuing to implement the policy that ensured improved access to broadband connectivity, the Commission, through Nigerian Communications Commission’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (NCC-CSIRT) constantly alerted consumers to cyber threats that could have led to the compromise of their financial profile through the execution of malicious codes by threat actors.
Stressing that by the time cashless banking fully took off in late 2023, the connectivity platforms on which electronic transactions ride have become robust to the extent of being able to absorb the surge in demand for cashless transactions.
Danbatta noted that Nigeria will witness an increased deployment of telecom infrastructure to satisfy the wireless service coverage requirement for 5G services. This anticipated growth in the number of 5G coverage will trigger high demand for data services which will result in increased energy consumption for the network infrastructure especially the Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), Internet of Things (IoT), 5G Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs) and mobile devices for example. This requires the industry to look for green and sustainable power solutions required for the connectivity of IoT devices and network optimisation.
On renewable energy option, the EVC said the Commission, has been proactive in responding to the realities and challenges posed by the impact of using fossil fuel as a power source in the telecommunications industry. In this regard, the situation in Nigeria is peculiar. Owing to the overall energy challenges of the nation, the fifty-four (54) thousand BTS scattered across the country depend on diesel generators with the attendant noise and environmental pollution.
He said that transitioning to renewable energy is predicted to result in a lower cost of operation as operators will be able to save on the cost of diesel, which accounts for a large chunk of the costs incurred by these licensees. Danbatta used the opportunity to call on MNOs and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to come up with innovations in sustainable energy in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Recommendation ITU-T L.1380 on smart energy solutions for telecom sites’ performance, safety, energy efficiency and environmental impact. This is vital to address the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.
In this regard and for the industry stakeholders, especially consumers, to benefit from the advantages of renewable energy, the Commission is working on a policy to encourage the adoption of renewable energy sources by operators. When operational, the Policy will ensure that using clean energy sources for power has the potential to resolve the three key needs of the telecom industry, namely: reduction in diesel usage; expansion of telecom infrastructure to off-grid areas; and reduction in carbon emissions.
The NCC Boss further stated that the Policy on renewable energy in the telecom sector is an additional layer of other policies that contribute to protecting the environment. In recent years, the Commission introduced a regulatory framework on infrastructure sharing and collocation among the licensees which has encouraged operators to fully maximize their already-deployment infrastructure.
In his words: “By sharing infrastructure, some operators do not need to entirely build a telecoms site in an area where another operator had deployed one. With the challenge of inadequate public electricity supply in Nigeria, telecom companies rely on diesel-powered generators to keep their telecom sites live round-the-clock. A regulatory framework such as infrastructure sharing, and collocation is helping in this regard and the Commission has recorded appreciable adoption of this regulation.
“Another regulatory initiative in this regard is NCC’s Type Approval Regulations. For the sake of educating our media stakeholders, Type Approval is an official authorisation by the Commission prior to the use or supply of an Equipment Type in Nigeria. Our Type Approval of devices factors in energy efficiency, among others, which ensures a reduction of power consumption. It also ensures that Radio Frequency devices used in Nigeria operate effectively, without causing harmful interference and otherwise comply with the Commission’s technical requirement prior to importation or marketing.
Danbatta who reminded that the ICT competitions focus on renewable energy, highlighted that the annual tech innovation competitions organized for young innovators in Nigeria also made considerations for inventions that address the challenges of renewable energy. Some of the entries submitted in this regard are in the process of being commercialized as the innovators are seeking investors to make their discoveries available to the public. The Commission will continue to support research and innovations that contribute to transitioning to renewable energy sources.
He stated that also connected to NCC’s regulatory efforts in dealing with issues of sanitizing our environment is its efforts in 2019 to commence activities that will result in the formulation of a Regulation on E-Waste in Nigeria. Today, the global concern for the regulation of e-waste is two-pronged. First, is the acute awareness of the hazardous properties and the potential risk to human health, as well as their capacity to degrade the environment. Secondly, is the business case and vast Potential for wealth creation in recycling e-waste into more benign and productive uses.
:In line with its regulatory mandate and to keep pace with efforts at managing e-waste-related issues, in a manner that reduces cases of indiscriminate burning of electronic devices with the potential for increased carbon emission in the environment, the Commission has been working, with other relevant agencies, to develop a Regulations on E-waste. The Regulations will represent a holistic intervention aimed at providing clarity and delimiting the responsibilities of various stakeholders in the e-waste value chain within the Telecommunications industry. While the proposed Regulations are industry-specific, they, nonetheless, key into other initiatives at national and international levels.
Danbatta stated that in the course of the year, the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) will sensitize telecom consumers about these interventions aimed at making the environment better for all of humanity. The CAB will carry this out as part of its Consumer Education mandate, with a significant part of this effort dedicated to providing information that equips the consumer to thrive in a world that has embraced digital finance, he added.
Through its outreach programmes, which have continued to re-tool to reflect existing realities and trends, the CAB will use its consumer-centric initiatives such as the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), Telecom Consumer Town Hall on Radio (TCTHR), Telecom Consumer Conversations (TCC) as well as social media platforms and Consumer Portal to sensitize consumers on how renewable energy benefits them and their role in achieving industry transition to it in the interest of the environment, Danbatta said.
Similarly, the Commission on Wednesday launched its Telecom Consumer Assistance, Resolution and Enquiries (TELCARE) Desk, in the Arrival Lounge of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja. The TELCARE Desk in Abuja will be a pilot as we plan to set up the desk at strategic locations across the country to provide information to telecom consumers.
The TELCARE Desk serves as an additional platform to receive and facilitate the resolution of consumer complaints; provide a means through which consumers and citizens can make inquiries on consumer issues; provide a platform for advocacy on any thematic consumer issue or concerns; to further enhance awareness of the Commission’s activities.
Danbatta reiterated that as the global community celebrates World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2023, the Commission is affirming that the theme of this year will form part of the consideration of the Commission’s regulatory mandate. Adding that NCC is committed to responsibly using the world’s resources, including protecting the environment by supporting the industry to transition to renewable energy.