Senate President Bukola Saraki

The suspension came on the heels of a Senate resolution asking the commission to immediately halt the proposed Internet data tariff hike.

The Senate, following a motion under matters of urgent national importance, raised by the Senate Deputy Leader, Bala N’ Allah, condemned the planned data tariff, asking the NCC to halt the plan forthwith.

 The NCC said the decision to suspend its earlier directive to the operators was taken after due consultations with industry stakeholders in view of the general complaints by consumers across the country.

Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo, said the commission had weighed the matter and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.

LEADERSHIP recalls that the Commission had written to the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on November 1, 2016 on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after the stakeholders’ consultative meeting of October 19, 2016.

The NCC had said the decision to have a price floor was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry as well as encourage small operators and new entrants.

The price floor in 2014 was N3.11k/MB but was removed in 2015 and the one that was supposed to commence today was N0.90k/MB.

Ojobo pointed out that in taking that decision, the smaller operators were exempted from the new price regime, by virtue of their small market share, adding that the decision on the price floor was taken in order to protect the consumers who are at the receiving end and save the smaller operators from predatory services that are likely to suffocate them and push them into extinction.

The NCC clarified the insinuation in some quarters that the regulator had fixed prices for data services, pointing out that the price floor is not an increase in price but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators.

The commission emphasised that this was not the true position as it does not fix prices but provides regulatory guidelines to protect the consumers, deepen investments and safeguard the industry from imminent collapse.

Before the new suspended price floor of N0.90k/MB, the industry average for dominant operators, including MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd, EMTS Ltd (Etisalat) and Airtel Nigeria Ltd was N0.53k/MB.

Etisalat offered (N0.94k/MB), Airtel (N0.52k/MB), MTN (N0.45k/MB) and Globacom (N0.21k/MB).

The smaller operators/ new entrants charge the following: Smile Communications N0.84k/MB, Spectranet N0.58k/MB and NATCOMS (NTEL) N0.72k/MB.

“The NCC, as a responsive agency of government, takes into consideration the feelings of the consumers and so decided to suspend the new price floor,” the spokesman said.

The new data tariff was billed to commence today, December 1, 2016, after the NCC had communicated the telecommunications companies and asked the big operators, namely MTN, Glo, Etisalat and Airtel, to hike data price.

Wild protests trailed NCC’s directive on social media, with citizens accusing government of planning to limit citizens’ access to the Internet.