Telcos commence payment of N13.6bn MTN interconnect debt

Telcos commence payment of N13.6bn MTN interconnect debt

Telcos commence payment of N13.6bn MTN interconnect debt

MTN Nigeria said on Wednesday that it had started receiving payments for the interconnect debts owed it by other telecommunications companies, including Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel.

Out of the N13.6bn, our correspondent gathered that the other operators had paid over N5bn as of Wednesday.

Although MTN’s Public Relations and Protocol Manager, Mr. Funso Aina, declined to state the exact figures paid by each of the three firms, sources at the regulatory unit of the company told The PUNCH that Glo had paid N2bn.

“We cannot at the moment state how much has been paid by Etisalat, Airtel and others, but we are sure of the N2bn payment from Globacom, which was paid in two weeks ago,” the source said.

However, Aina said, “The truth is that the issue of the huge interconnect debt has always raised concerns in the industry, and this is why we escalated the matter to the Nigerian Communications Commission, and as a responsible regulator, the NCC has decisively intervened.

“We are now receiving some long-overdue payments. We, however, cannot comment on specific operators for reasons of professional courtesy and contractual obligations.”

Reacting to the development, MTN Nigeria’s General Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Oyeronke Oyetunde, said the issue of the rising interconnectivity debt profile was something that the industry needed to discuss urgently, adding, “Otherwise, it may pose questions around the sustainability of the industry.”

During a visit by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, to MTN in February, the company revealed that the amount being owed it represented more than 40 per cent of the N30bn interconnect debt across telecoms companies.

MTN has about 60 million subscribers and as such, receives more termination on its network, and has incurred more unsettled interconnect rates from other players.

The minister had promised to intervene in the matter upon receiving MTN’s complaints.

“I have met with the NCC and the government is currently looking into how the issue will be resolved very soon,” Shittu had said.

Analysts say that the interconnect debts are capable of threatening the stability of Africa’s largest telecoms market if the government does not effectively manage the consequences of not settling them.

A larger portion of the debt could be traced to the collapse of the Code Division Multiple Access operators, which owed bigger players such as MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat. Already, the NCC has declared 14 licensed telecoms operators inactive.

According to the NCC statistics, from less than N10bn in the last five years, the interconnectivity debt profile has increased to N30bn, as telecoms firms grapple with rising capital and operational expenditure.

Source:© Copyright Punch Online