By Victor Akindele
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has issued fresh licences to another nine companies as moves to reform the Value Added Services (VAS) segment of the Nigerian telecommunications market hit top gear. This brings the total number of firms operating in this new segment to 19, as the telecoms regulator had initially licensed 10 last year.
The need to guard against rising anti-competitive practices and other unfair sharing formula between VAS licensees and the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), had necessitated the move by the NCC to restructure the market with a view to engendering an effective competition that will ensure sanity and foster needed economic growth. With the aggregators in place, the two-way transactions between the telcos and the VAS providers will now have a third party with the aggregators playing the middlemen between the two sides.
The new licensees, who commence operation from today, October 1, 2020 include Aerandir Technologies Nigeria Limited, Briccs International Ideal Limited, Exchange Telecommunications Limited, Paribas Communications Limited, and Thermolinks Concepts Ltd. Others are Broad based Communications Ltd, MVP Innovations & Technologies Ltd, V & Q Concepts Limited, Interconnect ClearingHouse Nigeria Limited, and SPEC3 Technologies Limited.
According to NCC’s licensing fee schedule, while VAS operators pay N500,000 for their licence, the aggregators pay a sum of N10 million for the licence which is renewable after five years. This indicated that the aggregators would be playing bigger roles in the segment than the VAS service providers.
The framework for the creation of the VAS Aggregators states that under the new structure, “the network operators will provide final link to the subscriber for the purpose of delivering value-added service to the end-user. The operators will not be allowed to host or distribute VAS to its subscribers directly. “An aggregator will primarily provide a concentration point to limit the number of devices that will be directly connected to the operators. It will eliminate the need for a Content Service Provider to maintain multiple physical connections to each network operator”.
“Content and applications service providers (present VAS licensees) are the only players that will be allowed to pool, host and distribute content and applications using their own in-house software and hardware platforms. “Developers are unlicensed, freelance creators of content and applications or those who have the franchise on such value-added services. They are however not licensed to distribute such services.”
The NCC also explained there will be no limit to the number of content and application service providers to be licensed by it, stressing that the number of active participants in this segment will be left to market forces. The Commission said companies, which presently hold a VAS licence will not need to apply for any new one, but will operate in segment 3, as content and application service providers.