Telecommunications Expert has reacted to consumers plea for reduction in voice and data tariff during lockdown.
The reaction was driven mainly by Federal Government sit-at-home directive issued early this month and different palliatives given to curb the impact COVID 19 on Nigerians and economy.
In an interview with Guardian, Executive Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Ernest Ndukwe noted that part of the move why data and voice tariff seems not to change is a way to avoid network congestion.
According to him, his telecommunications organization, MTN Nigeria is aware of the impact of coronavirus on its subscribers as well as the economy at large.
Ndukwe who doubled as the former Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) noted that the lockdown has driven more people to embrace digitalization more than ever before.
In his words, “I am pleased to be able to provide some clarity for all of our subscribers reading this. We know that people want to do more during this time, but we must ensure that the overall network capacity is not exceeded, which would have catastrophic effects for all and mean that no-one would be able to communicate at all.
“If we provide free or cheaper access or tariff to voice and data services, then the usage level would go up astronomically, and we might get to a level where the network gets so congested that nobody will be able to communicate, defeating the purpose.” he said.
Speaking further, Ndukwe emphasized that MTN is committed to ensure and find the optimal balance between enhanced access and network availability and stability.
“We are making specific investments to ensure that this could be possible in future. The NCC has also been working to support network stability. They have been supportive and have provided us with additional backhaul (E-Band) spectrum to support us in alleviating congestion issues in the core network.
“We sincerely appreciate the need to offer some relief to our customers at this time, but we need to balance such demand with availability of the network,” he said.
However, he pointed out that as part of its contribution to support subscribers and cushioning the effects of the pandemic this period, MTN has given its customers 300 free SMS per month.
This is addition to the N1.9billion worth of MTN airtime, free daily data access to customers and as well as free money transfers using the MoMo Agent Network among many others support of the national effort to contain the disease outbreak given by MTN Nigeeia as reported by Business Remarks.
“In this regard, we recently decided that every one of our subscribers will be given 300 free SMS per month. This supports the requirement for communication while ensuring capacity is not threatened,” Ndukwe noted.
Explaining further, the telecommunication expert said that the importance of the SMS intervention may not have been fully understood.
“The vast majority of our customers are people who do not have smartphones and can therefore not do data-enabled services like WhatsApp, FaceTime and browsing. This segment is the most vulnerable and requires the most help.
“So while access to SMS services might not be what everyone wants, its vital to millions of our people who continue to use it as their primary means of communication. This is reinforced by the numbers we are seeing, with more than 9 million subscribers already actively using the free SMS access. As with the broader medical response, I think it is these communities we have to prioritise first. They are the most vulnerable.” Ndukwe stated.
Ernest Ndukwe is the Executive Chairman, MTN Nigeria. Prior to that time, he was a Non-Executive Director of the telecommunications firm. He was appointed the CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).