Data depletion: NCC’s investigation clears telcos

.says 98.21% subscribers accurately billed

The audit instituted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the four GSM operators, MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile has cleared the network operators of any wrongdoing in the cases of data depletion reported by subscribers. According to the report of the investigation, a copy of which was seen by TechTrackAfrica, the operators’ billings were accurate except in one case.

“Out of the complaints on quick data depletion, investigations revealed that 98.21 per cent subscribers were accurately billed while one (1) subscriber on the MTN network experienced an unexplained data deduction and was refunded 1,346MB.” The investigation into the operators’ data billing followed repeated complaints from subscribers on data depletion across the networks.

In the course of the investigation, NCC said the four MNOs made presentations providing a detailed breakdown of their billing system architectures to enable the compliance monitoring team to obtain data.

Explaining why the Commission embarked on the audit earlier this year, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Garba Danbatta said while consumer protection remains a key focus area of the Commission’s regulatory activities, it has accomplished significant improvements in this direction through various initiatives aimed at putting mobile operators on their toes to be more consumer-centric.

He said through the forensic audit, the Commission wanted “to get to the bottom of why consumers are experiencing data depletion and the possibility of compensating them for wrong deductions, which may arise from short message service (SMS).”

“We have instituted and we have insisted that despite the fall in data price, that forensic audit must go on and must be concluded and the outcome communicated to the CEOs of telecom companies”, Danbatta said.

While appealing to Nigerians to wait for the outcome of the ongoing forensic audit, Danbatta had said that the operators would be made to comply with whatever directions are given after the investigation with a view to ensuring maximum protection for telecom consumers.

He, however, noted that the Commission has developed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on data depletion, which are designed to inform consumers on activities that may result in faster depletion of their data as well as enlighten them on measures to mitigate such. The FAQs are accessible from the Commission’s website.

According to the Commission, some of the activities that reduce subscribers’ data include “sending and receiving emails; Downloading and uploading files (pictures, documents, videos, etc.) – the larger the file, the more the data consumption; Browsing the internet – the more pictures, videos or graphics on the websites visited, the more data is used.

“Instant Messaging – like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, etc. Streaming music/ videos on YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and other channels; Games – games use a lot more data than most people imagine, due to the intense graphics and algorithms that power them, Social media applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Video-chatting and conferencing applications like Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp Video, etc.”

The Commission went on to explain the various factors that affect the consumption of data. It said: “The nature of technology (2G, 3G or 4G ), the quality of the network, the speed of the download, the type of websites you visit, the specifications of your handset, and so many other factors contribute to your data consumption.”

NCC, in giving a solution advised users to manage mobile data usage so that it does not deplete quickly. “Disable mobile data when it is not needed and Use data compression in your browser. By reducing video streaming quality from video sites such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime – you can use from 1080p or default/ auto setting to 240p for optimal viewing and lower data consumption. This may however affect the quality of your experience.

“Deactivate all cloud storage except when / where necessary. Try not to break or interrupt downloads in-between video sessions. Turn off automatic updates for apps for mobile devices, laptops and personal computer. Use Wi-Fi hotspots wherever you can to save your mobile data – you should, however, note that there are data security risks to using open/free Wi-Fi connections.

“Limit sending and receiving files and push notifications, delete email messages that won’t send and are no longer required, send big files when connected via Wi-Fi, monitor time spent on Social Media, close apps when you’re done using them can also reduce data usage, set up usage alerts,” NCC explained.

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