Roaming service in the international space is almost taken for granted because there are different dedicated frequency bands applicable to the same technology in different jurisdictions. Thus, there is a need to situate this discussion in the national space. The underlying principles for national roaming is the same for international roaming i.e. they both enable a mobile subscriber to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services when travelling outside the geographical coverage area of their home network, by means of using a network of another operator with roaming arrangements to access service.
It is apparent that some mobile network operators are more visible than others in certain areas of Nigeria. Accordingly, the approval by the Nigerian Communications Commission (the “NCC”) of a 3-month trial phase for a national roaming service in Nigeria is certainly a welcome development. The mobile network operators granted approval for the trial phase are Mobile Telecommunication Network Nigeria (MTN) and the Emerging Markets Telecommunication Service Limited (EMTS, trading as 9Mobile).
The NCC, during the trial phase, designated certain local government areas in Ondo state as national roaming geographical area. If the trial is implemented successfully, EMTS subscribers will be able to access MTN network service within the national roaming trial geographical area without the need for an MTN Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card.
As the trial run comes to an end on the 31st October 2020, we expect to see a more intentional approach to make this permanent, if the goal set out by the NCC (i.e. (a) to encourage network resource sharing among operators, (b) expand service delivery and (c) improve the quality of service) is realised during the trial phase.
We hope to see further progress in this space.