Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Umar Danbatta, has urged telecom service providers to address the issue of data depletion. He stated that the issue has become one of the most prevalent complaints received from the telecom consumers in the wake of their recent migration to 4G/LTE technology in the last five years. He lamented that consumers have been experiencing depletion of their data either as a result of data usage or consumption. Also, consumers are constantly informing the commission of their experience through our various complaint channels.
As part of the activities to mark the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day, the NCC met with telecommunications companies and other relevant stakeholders on March 16, 2023, to address the problem of abnormal data depletion being faced by data users in the nation. Danbatta, who was represented by the NCC Director of Licensing and Authorization, Muhammed Babajika, spoke at the 91st edition of the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), with the theme: “Data Depletion: Discussions on Various Perspectives” organized by the commission in Abuja.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic heralded new technologies.
Danbatta said that the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for the global explosion of new technologies which opened up an array of services, dynamic business models and new opportunities and markets globally. Of course, the Nigerian telecom industry was not left out. There was a documented upsurge in the use of computers, smartphones, smartwatches, and other technology-dependent devices which have given consumers access to multi-functional comfort and access to services. He stated that mobile network operators all over the world have had to face challenges caused by emerging technologies particularly during the pandemic when employees and undergraduate students particularly were forced to operate from home during the lockdown, which stretched the existing infrastructure to its limits.
He acknowledged that the interest of the telecom consumer is of paramount importance and, as the telecom regulator, the NCC has the responsibility of ensuring that the consumer’s voice is heard and that the relevant authorities address their complaints. He further said, “This deliberation could therefore not have come at a more auspicious time as Nigeria moves with the rest of the world towards 5G technology following the issuance of 3.5GHz spectrum licenses to MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, MAFAB Communications Limited and Airtel Networks Limited.”
NCC identifies technical and non-technical issues causing data depletion.
Meanwhile, they have identified technical and non-technical factors that contribute to data exhaustion for data subscribers in the country. The commission’s Director of Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Engineer Edoyemi Ogoh, gave an explanation to this during the TCP that the commission organized. He said that most browsers play videos by default even when the user only opened a website to read text. He also cited automatic updates of applications and automatic uploads of videos and pictures to the cloud on smartphones as other factors that drain data quietly.
According to him, other technical factors include the increase in internet speed due to migration to 4G, a technology that automatically plays video in high-quality formats and thus consumes more data. As for the non-technical factors, Engr. Ogoh said one of them is the low purchasing power of subscribers that leads to the purchase of small bundle sizes with short periods of use. This leads to an increase in frequency of data exhaustion complaints. Others include: growth of social media online advertisements and default audio-visual activations in web browsers and applications; lack of consumer awareness and education; use of sub-standard and fake subscriber devices; and expiry of data bundle usage timeline before data bundle exhaustion.
Commission educates telecom consumers on benefits of 5G.
In his remarks, the Head of the Consumer Affairs Bureau in the commission, Ayanbanji Ojo, stated that the NCC has intensified efforts to educate telecom consumers on the benefits of 5G, particularly in regards to the higher speed of data. He noted that the Consumer Affairs Bureau was mandated by the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 to protect, inform and educate telecom consumers. In line with this mandate, the commission designed the TCP as a forum for the active exchange of ideas on how to mitigate salient issues affecting the consumers of telecom services in the country.