Nigerian Telecommunications Sector Regulator Releases Guidelines On National Roaming

  • Roaming Agreements Have 3 Years Lifespan, Extensions Subject To Regulatory Approvals
  • Roaming To Commence 90 Days Upon Receipt Of Roaming Request
  • Guidelines Prohibit Call Tromboning, Other Infractions

By Clifford Agugoesi, Editor-in-Chief

Nearly seven months after it rallied stakeholders to a Public Inquiry on three draft regulatory instruments, telecommunications sector referee, the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) has established guidelines on National Roaming, among others.  The Guidelines made in June 2021, have the signature of the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer(EVC/CEO) of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta. With the release of the guidelines, operators are now set to activate roaming within the national network.

Released in exercise of the powers conferred upon it by Section 70 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 and other enabling powers in that regard, these Guidelines, according to the regulator, are intended to give effect to the provisions of licences which permit the licensees to enter into agreements for the purpose of providing National Roaming services in Nigeria, subject to the prior approval of the Commission.

“These Guidelines are designed and developed to encourage National Roaming between Roaming Providers and Roaming Seekers within a predetermined framework to remove uncertainty and ensure seamless communication across all networks in Nigeria,” says the NCC.

As per  the Commission, the Procedure for National Roaming shall be:

(1) Duly authorised Service Providers shall request and negotiate National Roaming Agreements with each other on bi-lateral and non discriminatory terms.

(2) A Roaming Seeker requesting for National Roaming services shall forward a duly completed Roaming Request Form A contained under Schedule 1 of these Guidelines to the Roaming Provider.

(3) A Roaming Provider shall notify the Roaming Seeker of its approval or rejection of the Roaming Request in line with the procedure stated under Sub-paragraph (5) and (6) below.

(4) Where the Roaming Seeker receives no response from the Roaming Provider within 15 days of its request, the Roaming Seeker shall immediately notify the Commission in writing, and the Commission shall take necessary steps to ensure the Roaming Provider responds to the Roaming Request.

(5) Where the Roaming Request is approved, (a) The Roaming Provider shall within 15 days of receipt of the Roaming Request notify the Roaming Seeker of its acceptance by completing the relevant section of the Response to Roaming Request Form B contained under Schedule 1 of these Guidelines.

(b) Parties shall thereafter enter into a Non-Disclosure Agreement and commence negotiations of the terms of the National Roaming Agreement.

(c) Parties shall conclude negotiations on the terms of the National Roaming Agreement and execute same within 60 days from receipt of the Roaming Request.

(d) Parties shall ensure that the National Roaming Agreement is submitted to the Commission for review and approval, prior to registration, within 14 days of execution by parties.

(e) If within 15 days from the date of submission the Commission does not act on the National Roaming Agreement, such shall be deemed approved and registered.

The Commission reserves the right to request for additional information or amendment of relevant parts of the National Roaming Agreement in order to comply with the provisions of the Act, these Guidelines, and any other relevant subsidiary legislation or regulatory instrument.

(g) All negotiations for Roaming must be done in utmost good faith. Neither party shall:

(i) Obstruct or delay negotiations.

(ii) Refuse to provide information relevant to an agreement including information necessary for the required cluster.

(iii) Refuse to designate proper representative to expedite negotiation.

(h) National roaming services shall commence within 90 days from receipt of the Roaming Request.

There is provision for rejection of roaming requests.   As the Commission specifies:

“Where the Roaming Request is rejected,

(a) The Roaming Provider shall within 10 working days of receipt of the Roaming Request notify the Roaming Seeker and the Commission of its refusal by completing the relevant section of the Response to Roaming Request Form B contained under Schedule 1 of these Guidelines and furnish supporting evidence therewith.

(b) The following are grounds for refusal of Roaming Requests under these Guidelines:

(i) Insufficient capacity.

(ii) Non-payment by the Roaming Seeker of indebtedness for other services such as interconnection and shared facilities.

(c) It shall be the responsibility of the Roaming Provider to prove the existence of any of the grounds listed under (b) above.”

However, where the Commission investigates any of the grounds listed under (b) and determines that it is not justifiable, it shall request the Roaming Provider to respond to the Roaming Request Form A of the Roaming Seeker with an offer to enter into a National Roaming Agreement.

Duration of Agreement

(1) National roaming services shall not exceed 3 years from date of execution of the National Roaming Agreement.

(2) The Commission reserves the right to permit parties to renew the National Roaming Agreement for another 3 years. Any further extension must be subject to the approval of the Commission.

Termination of Agreement

(1) A party may request in writing to the Commission for approval to terminate a National

Roaming Agreement with the other party on any of the following grounds:

(a) Bankruptcy

(b) Revocation of licence or failure to renew expired licence

(c) Consistent breach of commercial roaming obligations

After considering the request for termination, the Commission reserves the right to:

(a) Request parties to provide additional information which would assist it in making a decision;

(b) Request the defaulting party, where possible, to take remedial steps to avoid termination; or Convey its decision within 15 days, either declining the application or granting approval for the applicant to suspend the service.       

With regard to call routing and processing, the Guidelines stipulate:

(1) The following call routing and processing shall be available:

(a) Outgoing and Incoming Calls

(i) Roamer to another Roamer (Home Network)

(ii) Roamer to Home Network

(iii) Roamer to other Networks

(iv) Roamer to Visited Network

(b) Routing

(i) Selection process (All in All or Home select)

(ii) In call handover

(c) Call Processing

(i) The recommended standard for voice call flow and processing shall be 3GPP.

(ii) There should be no Call Tromboning.

(iii) For Incoming calls routing, all calling subscribers must be notified of calls to Roamers, as may be required.

Call Tromboning  represents a process where a voice channel is setup for a voice call from operator A to operator B (for calls from operator A subscriber to operator B subscriber roaming on operator A’s network) and a different voice channel is also setup from operator B to Operator A to enable the complete connection of operator A subscriber to operator B subscriber roaming on operator A network.

Part 1 of the 34-page Guidelines on National Roaming contains Introduction , Background , Objective and Scope of the regulatory instrument.

Part II deals with Legal Provisions, Procedure for National Roaming, Considerations for the National Roaming Agreements ,  Intellectual Property Rights , Dispute Resolution, Intervention by the Commission, Duration of Agreement, Termination of Agreement,  Responsibility for Regulatory Compliance, Complaints on Call Masking and Provision of Subscriber Information. 

Part III  houses Technical Provisions , Guiding Principles, Control of Overload, Trigger for Roaming, Roaming Selection, Roaming Services, Call Routing and Supported Technology, Roaming Connection, Billing and Call Data Record (CDR) Verification, Notifications and Security.

Part IV  focuses on Operational and Maintenance Provisions, Fault Management, Network Availability, Quality of Service and Experience.

Part V  contains Commercial Provisions, Set up Cost for Roaming, Roaming Charges, TAP File Transfer,  Billing, Other Considerations for Setting Roaming Charges, Review/Modification, Interpretation. 

Schedule 1  and Schedule 2 conclude the guidelines.

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