The Nigerian Communications Commission has issued a number of sanctions to some telecommunications companies for their involvement in masking international calls.
In telecommunications parlance, masking means concealing international calls as calls emanating from the country in order to profit from the difference in tariffs between local and international calls.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo said the companies that had been indicted for their involvement in masking international calls were punished following complaints from strategic stakeholders.
He said, “The NCC has recently been inundated with complaints from service providers and consumers regarding the high incidence of call-masking, call-refiling and SIM-boxing.
“Generally, the practice complained of involves disguising international calls as local calls in order to profit from price differentials between international and local calls.
“Apart from the resultant loss of revenue by service providers, the practice also has some negative security implications.
“Following a painstaking investigation process which included collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Department of State Services, the commission has imposed a range of sanctions on licensees involved in the fraudulent practice.”
According to Ojobo suspension of the interconnect clearinghouse license was handed over to Medallion Communications Limited for a period of 90 days. For Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria Limited, a strong letter of warning was issued.
Two companies – Information Connectivity Solutions Limited and Solid Interconnectivity Services Limited – were disconnected from all networks until they regularise their operations.
Three firms – Exchange Telecoms Limited, NiconnX Limited and Breeze Micro Limited – received warning letters, cautioning them against engaging in the fraudulent practice in the future.
According to the NCC spokesman, over 750,000 numbers assigned to several Private Network Links and Local Exchange Operator licensees were barred as the numbers were found to have been used in the fraudulent masking activities.
Ojobo said, “The sanctioned entities were found to be directly and indirectly complicit in several infractions, including covertly allowing organisations with expired licences to transit calls, failure to undertake due diligence on parties seeking to interconnect, deliberately turning a blind eye to masking infractions by interconnect partners, and using a licence issued to another organisation to bring-in and terminate international calls which were masked as local calls to other operators.
“Regarding the barring of numbers, over 750,000 individual numbers across the nation, made up of about 31 number ranges have been barred. The licensees whose numbers have been barred are: Vezeti Communications Services Limited, Voix Networks Limited, Mobitel Limited, Peace Global Satellite Communications Limited, ABG Communications Limited, Vodacom Business Africa (Nigeria) Limited, Swift Telephone Networks Limited, QVODA Telecoms Limited, Wireless Telecoms Limited and Emcatel Networks Limited. The Commission found that some of these were terminating millions of minutes, whereas they only have very few active customers.”
He added that the second stage of investigation had started and was focusing on Mobile Network Operators otherwise known as GSM operators.
Ojobo said the commission reserved the right to revoke the licence of any service provider that fails to take necessary corrective measures.