Finally, NCC Suspends 3 Network Providers, Bars 750,000 Lines for Call-Masking

David Afolayan

After weeks of investigation into cases of call masking and refilling, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has descended on those it found guilty of the offences. Nigerian Communications Week reports that the NCC has sanctioned three companies and barred 750,000 numbers found to be connected to call-masking.

Recall that we reported two weeks ago that four major telecoms companies were being investigated over call-masking allegations. Mr Tony Ojobo, the Director, Public Affairs of NCC, in a statement explained that the sanctioned entities were found to be directly and indirectly involved in several infractions.

The report indicates that the NCC arrived at the decision after investigations with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Department of State Services. As a result, the agency has suspended the Interconnect Clearinghouse License issued to Medallion Communications Limited for a period of 90 days, in the first instance.

The agency has also disconnected two other companies, Information Connectivity Solutions Limited (ICSL) and Solid Interconnectivity Services Limited from all networks until they regularize their operations.

The fourth operator, Interconnect Clearinghouse Nigeria Limited was lucky as it only got a strong warning from the NCC. In the same vein, the NCC also issued letters of warning to Exchange Telecoms Limited, NiconnX Limited and Breeze Micro Limited. It cautioned them against engaging in the fraudulent practice.

Similarly, the NCC also Barred over 750,000 numbers assigned to several Private Network Links (PNL) and Local Exchange Operator (LEO) licensees, whose number ranges were found to have been utilized for the call-masking in the past.

These licensees include 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.

Room for Amends

The NCC has also indicated that there is still room for the affected operators and licensees to make amends. The statement reads:

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.

The Axe is still Dangling

The war on questionable practices is not yet over. The NCC has said that the second stage of investigations has commenced. The statement suggests that the commission will focus on mobile network operators and some other parties involved in SIM-boxing.

But, What is SIM-boxing?

SIM-boxing involves using a device (SIM box) as part of a VoIP gateway installation in order to minimize the maintenance expenses in the network interconnect (connecting from one local/international network to another). It is also used in preventing a SIM from being blocked. This act in itself has many risks.

According to Xintec, SIM box or Interconnect Bypass Fraud is one of the most prevalent frauds today. It is said to have cost the telcoms industry about 3 billion dollars. Fraudsters use it to bypass the interconnect toll charging points, thus avoiding the payment of the official call termination fee of an operator.


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