The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Tuesday wielded the big stick on some telecoms operators which were found to be involved in call masking and refilling by suspending their operational licences.
It also barred 750,000 phone numbers that were registered with some of the telecoms operators and used in carrying out the illegal practice of call masking and refilling.
NCC had earlier identified six telecoms operators involved in call masking and refilling to include Medallion Communications Limited; Interconnect Cleaning House Nigeria Limited; Niconnx Communication Limited, Breeze Micro Limited; Solid Interconnectivity and Exchange Telecommunications Limited and had threatened outright revocation or suspension of their licences after wide consultation.
Call masking and refilling is an attempt by operators to hide the actual telephone numbers of callers when routing calls, especially international calls, which are not charged, because the caller’s identity is completely hidden on the network.
The various sanctions were made known in a statement signed by Tony Ojobo on Tuesday.
The statement read: “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.”
The commission also barred over 750,000 numbers assigned to several Private Network Links and Local Exchange Operator licensees.
The licensees whose numbers were barred are Vezeti Communications Services Limited, Voix Networks Limited, Mobitel Limited, Peace Global Satellite Communications Limited, ABG Communications Limited and Vodacom Business Africa (Nigeria) Limited.
Others are Swift Telephone Networks Limited, QVODA Telecoms Limited, Wireless Telecoms Limited and Emcatel Networks Limited.
The commission found that some of these firms were terminating millions of minutes, whereas they only had very few active customers, Ojobo added.
The NCC spokesperson stated, “The commission is pleased to note that the incidence of call masking has significantly reduced since it commenced a multi-faceted approach to address the menace.
“The commission hereby informs all stakeholders that the actions so far taken are just the first stage of the exercise. The second stage, which has now commenced, will focus on the Mobile Network Operators and other persons involved in SIM boxing.
“The aim of the commission is to completely stamp out the fraudulent practice in the overall interest of all Nigerians. Accordingly, every service provider that has been sanctioned still has an opportunity to correct the identified anomalies and satisfy the commission that it should be allowed to continue to operate in Nigeria.”