By Idris Bakare and Bukola Olanrewaju
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has lost over $3 billion in revenue on call masking in one year.
The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Umar Danbatta, made this known at 85th edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament, held in Lagos on Thursday with themed, “Overcoming challenges of calls masking/refilling: Task ahead of the Telecom Industry”.
Danbatta who was represented by the Director, Consumer Affair Bureau, NCC, Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, said that call masking is a worrisome development that constitutes serious challenges not only to the Telecom Industry but also poses serious security threats to the entire country.
Call masking/Refilling can be define as the act of terminating international call as a local number.
She explained that finding has show that mask calling with another number, started trending since 2016.
” Findings have shown that masking of calls with another number, especially international calls, started trending since September 2016 when NCC reviewed and implemented the termination rate for international inbound traffic room 3.90 min to 24.40 min.
” what is happening is a clear indication that some unscrupulous elements want to continue to fraudulent profit from the earlier lopsidedness in the international termination Rate which we had before the 2016 review. ”
Felicia said the commission discovered that call masking is being perpetrated with small movable device called SIM boxes , which are electronic boxes loaded with SIM Numbers.
“A SIM box has capacity to receive and transmit calls undetected. However, the challenge is that these SIM boxes are never type approved by the commission, a clear indication that they are being used illegally in the country.”
“Simbox or Interconnect Bypass Fraud (IBF) is one of the most prevalent frauds in the telecom Industry today and it is estimated to be costing the industry about $3 million in lost revenue.”
She unveiled that due to call masking, the commission has suspended the six indicated interconnect exchange licensees in February 2018.
“The commission suspended the indicated licensees. Moreso the regulator also barred about 750,000 number assigned to 13 operators from the national network.
” These numbers were suspected of being used for masking and NCC took a hard, no-compromise stance to withdraw their use. ” he said.
Also speaking on the theme, Deputy Director, Consumer Affair Bureau, NCC, Alhaja Ismail Adedigba, said that the commission has been inundated with complaints by telecom consumers and other industry stakeholders on the rising wave of call masking/refilling, which pose security and economic risk.
“Apart from the economic looses and anti-competitive proclivities, arising from call masking practice, of great concern is the security implementations which masked calls pose to our country, at a time when the federal government is keen on addressing diverse security challenges in the country.
“In line with the culture of robust stakeholder’s engagement on industry issue, therefore, the commission decided to deliberate on the issue of call masking/Refilling at today’ Telecom consumer parliament (TCP)”,he said.