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Telcos Raise Alarm on Forex Scarcity

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Despite assurances by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that it has secured a concessional foreign exchange (forex) access window for telcos from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN, the telcos at the weekend raised the alarm that they were on the brink of collapse because of forex challenges.

The carriers, under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), lamented that the failure of the CBN to grant them concessional forex access window was taking a terrific toll on their operations.

Its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke during a breakfast meeting with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) in Lagos at the weekend, lamented that the industry is facing major challenges in purchasing forex to fulfil contractual obligations to equipment suppliers and foreign vendors.

This situation is adversely impacting the network operations and also some recent developments in the industry have alluded very clearly to the risks at hand, he warned.

The prevailing scarcity of forex has occasioned a situation where the banks are unable to obtain forex for an upward period of six months, he lamented.

According to him, carriers are similar to manufacturing firms and deserve to be treated in the same manner because the core network equipment and other auxiliary equipment procured for providing voice and data services are equivalent to plant and machinery acquired by the manufacturing firms for the production of goods and services in the country.

He said items classified as plants and machinery that are procured and imported into the country by carriers include Radio Frequency (RF) coverage equipment (Base Transmission Station (BTS), Base Station Controller (BSC), Node B, Radio Network Controller (RNC); and core equipment comprising Mobile Switching Center (MSC), Media Gateway, Radio Management Centre (RMC), Charging Control Node (CCN), Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), Packet Core, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Nodes; transmission equipment, such as microwave, optic fibre, and RF planning tools.

Others are customer contact equipment such as subscriber identity module (SIM) cards; and network tools, such as planning and monitoring tools.

“These equipment are subsequently integrated to form a network to provide services of voice/data/SMS/VAS/enterprise solutions/leased lines – which are finished goods in the telecoms sector.

“In addition, telecoms sector is termed “infrastructure of infrastructures” and social overhead capital which propels productivity in other sectors of the economy. The multiplier effects of efficient and reliable telecommunications services on other spheres of the economy, such as banking, aviation and hospitality cannot be over-emphasised.

“ALTON is of the opinion that the telecoms sector deserves to be supported through direct forex allocation from the CBN interventions. This will facilitate the deployment of pervasive broadband network nationwide and ensure that the country retains its prime position, as the largest Telecommunications market in Africa,” he said.

He said the exemption of telecoms equipment and services from items to be accorded priority in the allocation of forex by the banks has adversely impacted the industry as it has increased operating cost (opex). “In the absence of local substitutes for its plant and machinery, telecoms service providers are constrained to source forex from interbank market at higher rates compared to other sectors such as manufacturing, aviation and agriculture accorded priority in forex allocation at reduced rates by the CBN. Owing to the prevailing economic situation in the country, ALTON members cannot transfer the increased cost burden to the consumers, thereby contracting profitability and ability to make further investment to drive growth in the industry,” Adebayo said.

Another effect is unfavourable credit terms which has made it very challenging for telcos to honour their obligations to foreign vendors as at when due. This has occasioned delayed payment to equipment suppliers and other foreign vendors, who have now resorted to imposing unfavourable payment terms on telcos in the country. “Some of the foreign vendors had issued Notice of Disconnection of service, which could disrupt service availability with attendant impact on customers’ experience,” Adebayo added.

He said the forex situation had led to network enhancement and improvement initiatives. According to him, ALTON members had made commitments intended to ensure the implementation of National Quality of Service (QoS) Fixing Project. He said it is a coordinated network investment plan supervised by the NCC at designated locations nationwide over a period of time by the carriers to ensure improved QoS.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Telecommunications

Truecaller Hits 43 million African Users, Releases a Business Solution

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Truecaller, a caller ID service and phone search engine, has launched an identification solution to help companies prove their legitimacy while calling customers, thus increasing safety and reducing fraud.

Truecaller helps users to see who is calling and automatically screens out spam calls and SMSes.

Truecaller Business Identity, a modern enterprise solution, allows companies to verify their identities using a green checked business badge that accurately displays the company’s profile name, photo, and logo.

“Fraud continues to be a major problem across Africa, and as a company, Truecaller wanted to provide solutions on a business as well as a personal level,” said Zakaria Hersi, Director of Business Development in Africa. “Trust is at the core of everything we do, and because we spend so much of our time on our phones, we need to make sure that our contact takes place in a secure atmosphere, which was also part of the strategy behind our harassment campaign in March this year.”

The new solution increases trust and productivity in business-to-business contact by providing customers with the assurance that the caller is a Truecaller-verified business.

A checked business on Truecaller gets a verified tick mark icon and can lock their brand name and profile picture in addition to the green Caller ID and green Verified Business badge.

Consumers would be able to tell which calls to trust as a result of this.

Importantly, users will continue to see the amount of spam marks as before, and they will have the option of labeling checked phone numbers as spam or blocking them entirely.

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Telecommunications

FG Lifts Ban on New SIM Cards’ Issuance

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The federal government yesterday reversed its policy banning the sale of new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, in agreement with industry stakeholders, also yesterday revised the National Digital Identity Policy for SIM card registration.

According to him, the activation of new SIM card, banned in December last year, will begin in April.

Pantami directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure the provisions of the National Digital Identity Policy for SIM card registration are strictly followed by all operators and subscribers.

He said the implementation of the policy and issuance of new SIMs and other suspended activities would resume on the same date, provided that verification had been completed and the guidelines fully adhered to.

According to a statement by the Technical Assistant (Information Technology) to the Minister, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, an earlier policy was approved on February 4, 2020, while the revised policy was developed in early March 2021. The policy was further improved and endorsed for implementation by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 26, 2021.

According to the statement, the final amendments to the revised policy, based on the directives of Buhari to make the use of the National Identification Number (NIN) mandatory for all SIM registration, were completed on April 14, 2021.
The policy includes guidelines on new SIM acquisition and activation, SIM replacement, new SIM activation for corporates and Internet-of-Things/Machine-to-Machine (IoT/M2M), among others.

The statement said: “For the corporate registration, institutions will be required to appoint a telecoms master (at the minimum of an executive management level) to provide the operational primary NIN representation. The telecoms master will also be responsible to ensure that the users provide their NINs to serve as a secondary NIN.

“For IoT/M2M activations, SIM security protocols would be implemented on the SIM profile to ensure that SIMs can only be used for point-to-point data services specific to the URL they are working with. All other services will be barred.”
Pantami stated that progress had been made in the NIN registration process.

“Nonetheless, the federal government is committed to supporting all Nigerians and legal residents to obtain a NIN. The biometric verification process has been slower than anticipated, owing largely to the non-adherence of many previous SIM biometric capture processes to the NIMC standards.

“The revised policy will ensure that operators conform to the required standards for biometric capture. The guidelines in the policy have been painstakingly developed and while they are thorough, it should be noted that they have been developed that way in national interest since the SIM is essentially a national resource. Citizens and legal residents are encouraged to bear with the government as the process has been developed in the best interest of the country,” the statement added.

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Walmart eCommerce Sales to Grow by 21% in 2021 to $65 Billion, Nearly a Sixth of Amazon’s $367 Billion

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A massive boom in click-and-collect trends is expected to accelerate Walmart’s pandemic-driven momentum through 2021.

According to the research data analyzed and published by ComprarAcciones.comWalmart’s online sales will grow by 21.2% to $64.62 billion in 2021. Its share of US online sales will rise from 6.7% in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021.

Based on the latest NRF ranking, Walmart is the world’s biggest retailer, followed closely by Amazon. Its total sales for 2020 – both online and offline – amounted to $559 billion, more than $200 billion ahead of Amazon’s figure.

Click-and-Collect Purchases will Grow by 15% to $83 Billion in 2021

Walmart’s US online sales for 2021 will almost double eBay’s estimated $38.67 billion. They will also be higher than the combined total of $60.59 billion that Best Buy, Target and The Home Depot will generate.

However, the big box retailer will be far behind the top US online marketplace, Amazon. Amazon’s sales are projected to reach $367.19 billion, nearly six times the Walmart total. Its share of US online sales will increase from 39.8% to 40.4%. Third-party vendors on the platform will grow sales by 16.5% to $220.39 billion. That will be 60% of total sales.

Among the factors driving Walmart’s growth is its huge brick-and-mortar footprint which drives online sales via click-and-collect. It has more than 4,700 stores in the US and 90% of Americans live within a 10-mile radius of one of them.

The click-and-collect trend saw significant growth in 2020. According to an eMarketer report, US shoppers made purchases worth $72.46 billion using the method. Compared to the 2019 total of $35.02 billion, the figure marked a growth rate of 106.9% YoY. It accounted for 9.1% of all online purchases, up from 5.8% in 2020. The growth is expected to carry into 2021. Total sales are also set to rise by 15.2% to $83.47 billion.

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