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COVID-19: Why it is impossible to slash data, call tariffs -ATCON

Sequel to the call by subscribers under the aegis  of  Association of Telephone, Ca­ble TV and Internet Subscribers (ATCIS)  on telecommunications companies in Nigeria to reduce tariffs for voice and data services on their net­works in the light of the current disruption triggered by the coronavi­rus pandemic (COVID-19), the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has explained why it is far from possible to cut tariffs. 

Speaking in an exclusive chat with The Daily Times on Sunday, ATCON President, Mr Olusola Teniola, said there was reason to bring down the networks by bringing down tariffs because  telcos are struggling to maintain the current situation. 

While Teniola agrees that the stay-at-home  directive and the lockdown measures put in place by the federal and state governments have changed consumer behaviour in terms of data usage as there have been a noticeable increase in data usage, he predicts that data usage will come back to normal in May.

According  to him, if the current lockdown is sustained, consumers at home will have to decide between food and internet, noting that the revenue of telcos will automatically drop because  a great number of Nigerians must have used up a huge chunk of their savings. “That’s the reality,” he said

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He further stated that the federal government recently increased Value Added Tax (VAT), noting that the government must reduce the cost of doing business and provide the necessary infrastructure for telcos to thrive for a tariff cut to be feasible. 

Earlier, the National President of ATCIS, Prince Sina Bilesanmi, had in a statement urged telecom operators to be patriotic and not exploit the disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to rake in easy money.

He said, “With self-isolation, and with a federal government directive that many institutions be closed as well as curfew in some states to ensure that the spread of the virus is curtailed, this will naturally lead to change in consumer behaviour. These changes are reflected in the uptake in the usage of collaborative tools to communicate, to do business and work from home as well as e-learning starting from primary, secondary to tertiary institutions.

 “However, the situation at hand is a very delicate one and the only way we can have a breakthrough is by prioritising patriotism above personal gains and gratifications. Everyone is caught almost unprepared by COVID-19, therefore forcing us to abandon our places of works and start working from home.

“We cannot do this unless we have access to telecommunications services for voice and data. This may appear a good time for our mobile network operators (MNOs) to rake in more money as the rate of spending on voice and data multiplies, it should, however, not be seen in this manner.

“Our telecoms service providers, especially, MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9Mobile, and others should see this time as an opportunity for them to further exhibit their value as responsible corporate citizens by slashing tariffs on calls and data bundles. A good name is better than riches some times and now is just one of such times.”

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Ihesiulo Grace

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