The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) disclosed on Thursday that Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) owe them $200 billion in Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) debts.
Gbenga Adebayo, ALTON Chairman, stressed the urgency of settling the entire debt during a stakeholder meeting with Dr. Aminu Maida, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Lagos.
Despite interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and NCC, the indebted banks have not made any payments, and Adebayo highlighted the debt’s potential to increase due to fluctuating foreign exchange challenges.
Impact of Unpaid USSD Debts on Telecom Services and Customers
The telecom operators’ USSD debts are now affecting various mobile services, including mobile banking, balance inquiries, and prepaid mobile recharges.
Financial challenges faced by telecom companies compromise their ability to maintain and enhance service infrastructure, directly impacting customer experiences.
The unpaid debts divert financial resources away from network maintenance, upgrades, and innovations, potentially causing disruptions, slower response times, and service outages.
Telecom operators urgently demand settlement as USSD debts rise to $200 billion, with Adebayo emphasizing the need to address the issue promptly.
The unresolved debt could hinder the introduction of new services, leading to delays or cancellations of innovations that could improve customer convenience. Customers may face interruptions in mobile banking transactions, impacting their day-to-day financial activities.
Additionally, the telecom industry’s financial constraints might lead to increased service charges or additional fees, affecting consumers who may find themselves paying more for the same or reduced services.
Challenges in Nigeria’s Telecom Industry
The Nigerian telecommunications industry grapples with regulatory complexities and foreign exchange fluctuations, hindering innovation and affecting operational costs.
The USSD debt issue exacerbates these challenges, introducing financial uncertainty. Despite these obstacles, collaborative efforts between stakeholders and regulators are crucial to establishing clear regulations and mechanisms for a thriving telecommunications sector in Nigeria.
NCC’s Role in USSD Debt Resolution
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) plays a pivotal role in regulating the country’s telecommunications industry.
In the context of the USSD debt issue, the NCC may mediate discussions between telecom operators and stakeholders, providing guidance on regulatory frameworks and facilitating resolutions to financial disputes within the industry.