The Nigerian telecommunications regulator fined the three largest mobile operators 647.5 million naira ($4 million) and toughened penalties in a move that shows waning tolerance for poor service in one of Africa’s largest mobile markets.
MTN Group Ltd. (MTN), the Johannesburg-based market leader, and Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI)’s local unit are to pay 185 million naira each, while Nigeria’s Globacom Ltd. has been fined 277.5 million naira for not meeting quality standards in January, the Nigerian Communications Commission said in a statement yesterday. They are prohibited from selling new SIM cards during March, the first time a fine includes this punishment, according to Tony Ojobo, the regulator’s director of public affairs.
“It can be argued that the latest sanctions of 647.5 million naira on three operators over quality of service breaches for a single month are by far the most punitive,” Kenechi Okeleke, senior analyst for ICT Research at Business Monitor for the Middle East and Africa, said by e-mail today.
Nigeria had 156 million mobile-phone subscriptions as of October 2013, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, with user numbers expected to grow to more than 200 million in 2017, London-based research company Informa Telecoms & Media estimates. Information and Communication Technology Minister Omobola Johnson said in a Feb. 10 interview that authorities were considering stopping SIM card sales to force service improvements.
“Fines are just a slap on the wrist. We need to change behavior,” the minister said at the time.
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