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Ensuring telecoms’ growth via new MTR regime

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A new mobile termination rate (MTR) regime for voice services among telecoms companies in Nigeria is underway as part of regulatory measures aimed at creating a level-playing field for all operators and ensuring the continuous growth of the nation’s $70 billion telecoms industry. KUNLE AZEEZ reports

 

Globally, interconnection is critical to the growth and development of the telecommunications industry and without it, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for subscribers on one network to call other networks, according to experts.
Till date, a key component of the commercial aspect of interconnection is the determination of interconnection rates amongst network service providers.
Already, the telecommunication regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said a new mobile termination rate (MTR) would take effect from March 1.

Processor
Earlier on September 16, 2016, the NCC, had reviewed a somewhat lopsidedness in the voice termination rate for international inbound traffic, which has made telecoms companies in Nigeria to be net payers of higher interconnection to foreign companies.
To address this imbalance, the regulator reviewed the termination rate from N3.90/min to N24.40/min, for all telecoms companies licensed in Nigeria including the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), code division multiple access (CDMA) and fixed line networks, thus, representing over 700 per cent increase.
As at that time, the Commission took the decision as part of an ‘interim measure’ to address the lopsidedness in the termination rate for inbound international calls in the nation’s telecommunications sector. Also, the interim rate was designed to subsist pending the conclusion of a study of the determination of cost-based pricing for Mobile Voice Termination Rates (MTR).

Need for cost-based MTR regime
In a proactive move to ensure continuous growth of the industry, the NCC had recently held a stakeholders’ forum on the cost-based study in Lagos for the determination of mobile voice termination rate for the Nigerian telecommunications industry.
Speaking at the forum, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who was represented by the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Mr. Sunday Dare, noted that apart from the first interconnection rate, which was based on negotiation between the incumbent operator (NITEL) and other operators, all other determinations have been handled by the Commission due largely to two reasons.
One of the reasons, according to Dambatta, was the negotiated interconnection rate fraught with many controversies, secondly, and more importantly, was a need to ensure interconnection rates are cost-oriented in line with international best practice.

Previous MTR regimes
Till date, there have been four interconnect cost determination regimes in 2003, 2006 2009 and 2013.
According to Danbatta, the 2003 regime was determined via a benchmarking exercise, while the 2006, 2009 and 2013 regime were cost-based and a glide-path asymmetric regime was adopted in 2009 and 2013 respectively, with the 2013 regime expected to expire in 2016.
“However, economic factors such as the rapid devaluation of the Naira in 2016 and the fact that Nigerian network service providers became perpetual net payers to their overseas interconnecting partners, led to the commission setting an interim rate of N24.40 kobo per minute for inbound international traffic after carrying out a benchmarking exercise with other jurisdictions and this rate will subsist until a cost-oriented rate is determined by the commission,” Dambatta said.

The consultants
Meanwhile, Danbatta explained that further to the above and the expiration of the 2013 interconnect region in 2016, the commission engaged the services of the consultant PWC, United Kingdom (UK) to review and update the existing model taking into account the changes that have occurred over time and produce an interconnection cause model that is more in line with the current realities in Nigeria,” Dambatta stated.
The EVC disclosed that this project formerly kicked-off with the initial stakeholders’ forum held on February 15, 2017 with the primary aim of introducing the consultant to the industry, informing operators of the objectives of the study, and seeking their active participation by way of providing the requisite data and order Information for the study.
He explained that this was immediately followed by a one-on-one meeting with operators and subsequent visits to the offices of some operators for data collection and re-validation during the course of the study.
Danbatta reiterated that the commission has an obligation to create a level playing field for all operators and ensuring the continuous growth of the industry as such, NCC shall ensure the determination of a mobile voice termination rates that truly really relate the cause of deploying the service and interconnection of networks in Nigeria.
Review long-overdue
Speaking through the President, the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, the telecoms operators agreed with the Commission that the interim MTRs are long overdue for review and especially when the foreign exchange (forex) issue and the devaluation of the Naira against foreign currencies has created a significant disparity in situations when calls are placed off-net.
According to Teniola, “it appears that there isn’t any evidence to support the claims that the MTR is lopsided. In fact, the recent PwC findings indicated that asymmetrical or symmetrical structure hadn’t had any significant impact on the competitiveness of the Nigerian voice market over the period of the current MTR rates.
“So it suggests that the voice market is already saturated and maybe there are needs to be more incentives placed in the market for increased voice penetration in communities that are still yet to make a call that has already been taken for granted by more than 75 per cent of the population.”

Ratification of MTR categories
He, however, noted that NCC hasn’t decided or made any decisions yet about what new rates will apply from 1st March 2018,” he said.
“It appears that the PwC study recommended categories of MTRs depending on the size and shape of the operator and this, as I write, still needs to be fully ratified and agreed by each operator that this makes business sense.
“Again, it appears that if the MTR rates are reviewed more frequently and the retail voice price in the market reflects a reasonable margin for each operator then this exercise is worthwhile, otherwise, it appears that any further retail price decrease, which is inevitable, will further erode some of the players’ business models unless a significant ramp-up in call volumes is witnessed.”

PWC’s tested model
Asked operators expectations from the study, Teniola said, the PwC study was very empirical and evidence-based and “their model is tried and tested against other jurisdictions and they pointed out that this model had been tailored to our unique environment.”
According to him, “ATCON is not privy to the model and as long as our members have provided full and valid cost data (especially national transmission costs and multiple tax charges) to the consultants, then, there are no reasons to doubt the outcome of the study. It appears that the long-term trend is for eventual convergence of the MTR and that each operator may have to negotiate favorable International Terminating Rates (ITR) with their counterparts outside the country – this makes for some interesting scenario developments playing out in the market going forward.

Last line
Meanwhile, as the industry awaits the outcome of the new MTR regime taking off in March, it is believed that the regulator’s effort demonstrates the long-term international benchmarking trends that all operators in the industry will need to take on board going forward towards ensuring a sustainable growth in the industry.

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Stock market opens week bearish

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Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) market yesterday opened this week on  the negative territory as the overall performance measures, NSE ASI and market capitalisation, both fell by 1.53 per cent.

 

The downswing according to market watchers, was due to profit taking by investors after recent bullish rally.

 

Consequently, the All-Share Index dropped by 651.09 basis points or 1.53 per cent from 42,638.83 index points last Friday to close at 41,987.74, while the market capitalisation of equities depreciated by N234 billion or 1.53 per cent to close at N15.067 trillion from N15.301 trillion.

 

Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that Linkage Assurance Plc topped the day’s gainers’ table with 9.09 per cent to close at 96 kobo per share, while Livestock Feeds Plc followed with five per cent to close at N1.05 per share. Fidson Healthcare Plc added 4.92 per cent to close at N4.69 per share.

 

On the flip side, PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc led the losers’ chart with a dip of 8 per cent to close at N23.00 per share. Lasaco Insurance Plc shed 6.06 per cent to close at 31 kobo per share. Enamelwa Nigeria Plc followed with 4.95 per cent to close at 22 kobo per share.

 

Market turnover closed negative as volume moved down by -64.80 per cent as against +32.62 per cent uptick recorded in the previous session. Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and FCMB Plc were the most active stocks that boosted market turnover while Zenith Bank Plc and Guinness Nigeria Plc topped market value list.

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Nigeria mulls 700,000 barrels daily oil output surge

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…envisages 250,000 barrels from local producers

 

Nigeria is planning an increase of 700,000 barrels a day in her oil production. Data from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources sighted by New Telegraph showed that indigenous producers from the country aim to pump almost 250,000 barrels per day additional crude by 2020 as part of a wider plan for the nation to lift output to 2.5 million a day.

“We are on course,” Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who confirmed the data, said in Abuja last weekend, just as he intimated newsmen of the goal to pump 2.5 million barrels a day by 2020. “Capacity-wise, the volumes are there. Infrastructure-wise we suffer a little bit in terms of being able to deliver.”

There are at least a dozen small to mid-sized Nigerian producers pumping between 5,000 and 100,000 barrels each day. Together, they plan to add incremental supply of at least 150,000 barrels a day this year. Aiteo E & P Ltd., Nigeria’s largest independent, didn’t immediately comment about its expansion plans. Shoreline Group, the third-biggest independent, the data showed, wants to double output by December with Seplat Petroleum Development Company, the second-largest, also intending to produce more.

” In all, the country’s total planned increase, a report adapted from the data showed, is 700,000 barrels a day. “Just over a third will come from the state-run Nigeria Petroleum Development Co., a third from independents, and the remainder from oil majors.

The expansion depends, among other things, on peace being maintained in the Niger Delta. A militant group said last month it would attack oil and gas facilities,” the data adapted by Bloomberg showed. “One probability is at least some of the extra Nigerian supply will end up feeding the Dangote oil refinery, the continent’s largest, which is due to start operating next year. While doing that would help rid Nigeria of its dependence on fuels produced overseas, it wouldn’t extricate the country from its commitments to OPEC.

“Back in 2016, Shoreline had to cancel a planned $500 million Eurobond. With oil prices rallying, the company is making a comeback. It agreed a $530 million deal with financiers led by Vitol Group, the world’s biggest independent oil trader, as it seeks to double crude output to 100,000 barrels a day by year end.

“It represents a massive vote of confidence in the future growth of our operations and of Nigerian upstream producers,” Kola Karim, chief executive officer of Shoreline, said in an interview.

“Shoreline’s progress mirrors that of other Nigerian independents.Seplat, said to be among companies bidding for Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s African oilfields, expects to ramp up drilling this year after output recovered from militant attacks and low prices, according to company statements,” the report said. Half a decade ago, these producers were hailed as the future of Nigeria’s production because of their potential to pump 40 percent of the OPEC member’s output. They had bought oilfields that hold at least a third of the West African nation’s 37.5 billion barrels of crude reserves from companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA, and Eni SpA. Their day may still come.

The OPEC deal is currently in place until the end of this year and global demand is rising fast. The International Energy Agency this month revised up its growth estimate for world oil consumption by 100,000 barrels a day, taking it up to 1.4 million.

“As the oil market rebalances in the years ahead, OPEC will have to lift its production cap,” Pabina Yinkere, an energy analyst at Lagos-based Vetiva Capital Management, said by phone, adding that a lot of extra Nigerian crude could be used to feed the Dangote refinery.

“Moves to raise production are in view of expected demand growth.” The oil producers in Nigeria are planning to add barrels at the same time as Nigeria participates in a global pact to restrict oil supply that’s being led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-member nations including Russia. If any one country relents – and similar internal pressures are bubbling up elsewhere – then the entire deal could come under strain.

“If they can pump more in Nigeria, I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” Warren Patterson, a commodity strategist at ING Bank NV, said. “If you get Nigeria exceeding the cap, then you’re going to get others who pump a little bit more. The longer the deal goes on for, the more likely it’s going to fall apart.”

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2018: Experts predict vibrant real estate

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As oil prices stabilise at 17 per cent higher than 2017 average and direct foreign investment increases, experts see surge in real estate activities in 2018. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

 

Following improvement in the economy, things are beginning to look up in Nigeria’s real estate sector with market operators getting set to tap into the opportunities, which exist in various segments of the market.

They were, however, particular about the low and middle income residential, millennial and student accommodation sections. Apparently equipped with the dynamism of happenings in the economy, they stated that investors (both local and foreign) were prepared to launch into pockets of opportunities in real estate market. Investors’ hope has been further boosted by the latest Bismack Rewane-led Financial Derivative Company (FDC)’s report on review of third quarter of 2017, which showed that Foreign Capital Inflows (FCI) to Nigeria increased by 148 per cent to $4.15 billion.

This positive trend, analysts said, happened as a result of renewed investor confidence in the economy. Also, the experts noted that oil prices had climbed to 17 per cent higher than 2017 average, expressing confidence that if the situation persists, oil revenues might help mitigate consequences of capital flight.

Current development

This newspaper gathered that while some developers are entering into Joint Ventures (JV) with the government to provide affordable housing units for citizens, others are currently repackaging their products to attract financiers and buyers.

In exclusive neighbourhoods such as Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki, where landlords can no longer wait without getting tenants and buyers for their dormant properties, they have been converting their vacant houses to smaller apartments such as one-bedroom, studio and condos to attract people in need of smaller accommodation. This innovation by landlords, according to experts, has caught the attention of working-class singles who want to live very close to their workplaces.

Experts’ view

Taking a look at what 2018 holds for the sector, experts, which comprised developers, institutional investors, mortgage providers, media practitioners, property consultants and brokers at Fine and Country West Africa’s investors series, agreed that the outlook was bright and promising for real estate, hinging their prediction on improved economic climate. According to them, the economy has started looking up with pockets of opportunities emerging in the residential segment of the market.

They observed that low to middle income market remained strong all through the recession period while the upper market struggled. “But developers are adopting creative ways of dealing with the persisting challenge with a view to stimulating demand and sustaining their business,” they said.

Setting the pace, Sales Consultant, Fine and Country in Lagos, Mr. David Mba, said that he saw a more vibrant residential market coming as a result of an improved economy in 2018, adding that what were considered challenges in the past have become opportunities. According to him, developers in their bid to share risk and also raise more capital were going into joint ventures, citing Brains and Hammers Limited’s example.

“Only recently, Brains and Hammers Limited, one of Nigeria’s leading real estate and infrastructure development companies, entered into a joint venture agreement with Lagos State Government,” he said. This move, he explained, is believed to be the company’s response to pressing demands from its clients who wanted to acquire property in Lagos.

He said: “The move will see the company developing 750 housing units, comprising 132-tower units and 618 units that will be part of the Jubilee Estate development in Iganmu area of Lagos.

“The Phase 1 of the project comprises 129 units made up of 12 units of 2-bedrooms, 24 units of 4-bedrooms terrace and 93 other units. There are also twin towers made up of 132 units, comprising 60 units of one bedroom, 24 units of two bedroom, and 24 units of 3-bedroom maisonette.”

Other market trends, Mba said, included increase in demand for good value three or four bedroom apartments in Ikoyi precincts, selling within the range of N120 million to N150 million; increase in demand for houses including terraces, semi and fully detached units. Publisher/CEO, BusinessDay, Frank Aigbogun, is of the view that improvement in the economy means increased business activities that will in turn trigger more demand for real estate products such as commercial office, retail and residential buildings.

Fine & Country’s CEO/Vice Chair, Udo Okonjo, stated that the sector’s positive outlook would come with opportunities for only investors who are ready to understand that the market had changed.

From market survey, she stated that there would be opportunities across various segments of the real estate’s market including residential, commercial office and retail. “Lifestyle communities are the new face of residential real estate.

These communities have the advantages of economies of scale and security,” the Fine and Country’s CEO said. She hinted that opportunity currently existed in millennial and student housing, adding that many investors were tapping into these areas.

Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Professor Timothy Nubi, confirmed that many investors had already taken position around the university campus and were delivering one-bedroom self-contained apartments for N500,000 per annum.

In a bid to maximise the value of their property, a recent Northcourt Real Estate report 2018 outlook, noted that land owners looked more favourable to joint ventures with developers.

This newspaper also discovered that many developers and investors have been taking advantage of the ongoing construction of Dangote Refinery in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos to acquire more lands in the axis for housing estate development.

Last line

As the business investment climate gets betters, necessary actions must be taken by the government to improve ease of doing business in the country.

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