In November 2016, all major newspapers in Nigeria reported that plans have been perfected and directives issued to increase the prices of internet data plans across all networks in the country by December 1, 2016.
Some said the increment would be as high as 200%, according their estimates the 1.5Gb Data sold for N1000 would be N3000 after the increment, meaning an extra N2,000; but a look at the current data prices across all networks largely remain unchanged, for example the prices of Airtel data plan have not changed (even those of Airtel Android data plan have not changed), the prices of Etisalat data plan have not changed too but rumors have it that the planned hike was in response to the Glo network drastically reducing the prices of their data plans thereby making it so cheap that no other network currently rivals their prices, the NCC further stated that “The decision to have a price floor was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants”; though, there is a change in the prices of MTN data plan as the 750mb sold for N500 now gives you 500mb since the beginning of this year, there has been no noticeable changes in the Glo data plan as it continues to be the cheapest in Nigeria.
When you look at the prices of internet data plans of all these networks, you find that it appears one of them might be planning to have every internet user in the country move over to it network; for example, Glo sells a whole 6Gb of data for just N500 and its valid for a week when MTN sells 500Mb for N500, Airtel sells 750Mb for N500, Etisalat sell 1Gb for N500 (even though it doesn’t last); this gives us a clear picture of what some of the networks are trying to do to others hence the decision of NCC to regulate the market. This leaves some questions to be answered: (1.) Does the NCC have the power or right to regulate the pricing? (2.) Who benefits if NCC regulates the pricing: Nigerians, Network providers or NCC? (3) Should the prices be regulated at all?
Does the NCC have the power to regulate the pricing?
It is a known fact that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the independent regulatory body for the Nigerian telecommunications industry. The agency was created under Decree number 75 by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria on 24 November 1992. The NCC was charged with the responsibility of regulating the supply of telecommunications services and facilities, promoting competition, and setting performance standards for telephone services in Nigeria. When you even look at NCC’s mandate you’ll see that they are the one who have the power without informing any other body before regulating pricing and the workings of these telecommunication firms, hence, they have the power and they have the right to regulate the pricing.
Who benefits if NCC regulates the pricing: Nigerians, Network providers or NCC?
A direct answer to this question is it benefits all parties: Nigerians, Network providers and the NCC itself, how? It benefits Nigerians when NCC regulates pricing of internet data plans by giving the consumers value for money. If you have used all these internet services providers it won’t be long before you see that some of them that are very cheap are, in most areas, very poor in terms of the service they render, though, I won’t mention names but 2 of these networks that are the cheapest are so poor that on several occasions after I bought their data plans so I can do some work after leaving the office I couldn’t use the data, it was just too slow, I took it to Palmgrove-Lagos where I work and it was too slow, I took it to Ogun state where I stay and it was too slow, It took it to Ikorodu-Lagos my family home and it was too slow, I ended up wasting the data because it expired. I believe these network providers are not paying attention to their services instead they appear to be focused on making huge money from people who subscribe to their data plans on the believe that they have subscribed to a cheap data plan, if NCC regulates and they all sale at the same price, people will only patronize those who offer good service and the ones who offer poor services would have no choice but to improve and this will benefit Nigerians. The networks providers will benefit by improving their service and NCC will benefit by leaving up to their mandate.
Should the prices be regulated at all?
First it should be noted that regulating does not necessarily mean increasing; looking at the facts on ground, the NCC should regulate and not increase the prices of internet data plan in the nation. It should be noted that Nigeria is currently in recession and there are no jobs, no money, no nothing, more Nigerians rely on the internet to make a living legitimately and to get information so NCC should regulate the pricing and ensure that even the most vulnerable Nigerian have access to good internet service at a very very low price.
It’s a good thing that the NCC have said they are only suspending the directive and are currently doing a study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria, after this we can expect that the NCC will start to regulate the pricing of internet data plans, the decision represents a good Omen.
About the writer
Bolaji Dawodu E. is a Lagos based website designer who studied Computer Science at Lagos State University, you can reach him on [email protected]