The new 25 per cent hike in cost of acquiring data sevices has raised fresh concern over ability of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to regulate both data and voice sevices in a competative telecommunications sector.
Subscribers of various related services in the industry have complained of the frequency in sudden rise in price, especially the broadband (data) sub-sector, with the latest in the middle of July 2017.
Most service prividers had quietly increased their prices, leading to 30 GigerBite (GB) going from N20,000 to N25,000,
The banking sector is the most affected by both poor data quality serivices and hikes, as many have also lamented that as bulk consumers, relying on data for online banking services, they suffer double tragedy in the hands of service providers.
The proprietor of an Ikeja-based internet serivces outfit, Sendata Cafe, Mr. Gilbert Asoanya, and the Chairman, Lagos branch of the Association of Telecoms Services Consumers of Nigeria(ATSON) said the frequency of increase in data cost in Nigeria had compelled his members to equally hike charges of their services to their public.
"It is now confirmed that Nigeria records the highest cost of data usage in African, if not the world.
" There is no part of the world that I know where 30GB can cost more than $5 (about N16,000).
"But we were buying it at N20,000 , in the past one year, but it has now added about N5000, depending on the service provider.
"We had taken the case up with the Broadband services providers, which have continued to throw it back on the exchange rate as well as blaming it on the charges by the various government agencies, including the NCC."
A senior marketing officer with Smile, one of the broadband companies, on condition of anonymity confirmed that there had not been any reduction in the charges and fees that the operators have been bearing, despite the recession, which had held down growth since 2016.
But a legal practioner and an expert in the industry, Mr. Yinka Abisoye, faulted the system that allows voice services providers, particularly the GSM operators, to go into data services as well.
"When about 10 yeas ago NCC was tinkering about issuing multi-faceted licence for voice-data services, some of us advised against it on the ground that it would lead to poor quality services and at the same time promote unhealthy rivalry in the system.
"What is done in other climes is for a sort of synergy be reached between voice services providers and data providers, such that a sharp line be drawn, in terms of rendering quality service-delivery and cost management.
Another data provider accused the GSM operators of causing some unhealthy competition by reducting price of data services to attract customers, but without offering them quality service in line with international standard .
However, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Umar Garba Dambatta, in a recent chat admitted that Nigeria has witnessed a quantum jump in the rate of data usage, such that the price of broadband is supposed to be affordable by now.
He accepted existence of what he described as possible price war , capable of eroding the supposed gain in the percentage increase in data usage in the country.
He dismissed allegation that NCC has failed in stamping its feet in ensuring standard and stemming price war .
"We are doing all things necessary to forestall a possible price war in the data sub-segment of the telecommunications sector.
"In addition, NCC is looking at other temporary measures in other to ensure that data services improve.
"For instance, we have noticed that the level of data usage is growing, which attests to the earlier assertion by the NCC that data is going to be the next frontier, hence our attempt to introduce the interim price floor for data.
"This is in order to ensure that we do not have a price war or reduced standard .
"This of course met with resistance from the consumers; and because the NCC is a listening agency, we suspended the interim price floor," Dambatta stated.
He continued: "As soon as the report of a special study commiittre set up to look into the data subsector is out, the question will be sorted out with all the stakeholders ,who are expected to provide useful information towards arriving at an acceptable price floor for data.
"We are also looking at other temporary measures in other to ensure that data services improve.
"We are thinking about providing palliatives to smaller operators in the industry, targeted here are those with about 7.5 per cent share of the market.
"We are in discussion with them in order to see how we can help them to provide data services in different parts of the country, even as we are talking with bigger operators to ensure that we find a way to improve the quality of data services."