The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), recently, released new Guidelines aimed to give effect to the provisions of licenses which permit the licensees to enter into agreements for the purpose of providing National Roaming services in Nigeria, subject to the prior approval of the Commission.
As pointed out in our previous publication on this subject, National roaming “is a measure that can be agreed commercially between operators to extend coverage or can be imposed or facilitated by governments as a means to increase competition amongst networks”.
Looking at the guidelines from the intellectual property rights angle, the Commission has it that except as otherwise expressly provided in the National Roaming agreement, all intellectual property rights shall remain the property of the party creating or owning same.
In other words, “Nothing in the National Roaming agreement shall be deemed to licence, confer, transfer or assign the intellectual property rights of one party to the other party, provided however that, nothing in the National Roaming Agreement shall be deemed to restrict the rights of any Party to own, use, enjoy, license, assign or transfer its own Intellectual Property”, the guideline provides.
Where a dispute arises during negotiation, parties shall endeavour to amicably resolve the issues.
NCC has also envisaged a situation where a resolution is not reached hence the new guidelines suggest that either party may refer the matter to the Commission for resolution, in line with the provisions of Sections 75 and 76 of the Act and the Dispute Resolution Guidelines.
Based on the provisions of the Acts quoted above, the decision of the Commission in this regard shall be final and binding on parties until set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction.
What will prompt NCC to intervene?
Further to Paragraph 7(2) above, if a National Roaming Agreement is not finalised and executed by parties within 60 days from the date the Roaming Provider receives a Roaming Request, either party may request the Commission to intervene in order to facilitate the conclusion of the National Roaming Agreement.
The NR guidelines also indicate that Commission shall, within 30 days from date of receipt of the request for intervention, prescribe the terms and conditions including national roaming charges.
The Commission shall exercise its authority to intervene and regulate rates or tariffs whenever rates or tariffs are prohibitive and subscribers will be adversely affected.
What is the stipulated duration of National Roaming agreement?
NCC has made it clear that national roaming services shall not exceed 3 years from date of execution of the agreement.
To this end, the Commission reserves the right to permit parties to renew the National Roaming Agreement for another 3 years.
“Any further extension must be subject to the approval of the Commission.
Three major reasons to allow termination of Agreement
“A party may request in writing to the Commission for approval to terminate a National Roaming Agreement with the other party on any of the following grounds:
- Revocation of licence or failure to renew expired licence
- Consistent breach of commercial roaming obligations
After considering the request for termination, the Commission reserves the right to:
“Request parties to provide additional information which would assist it in making a decision;
“Request the defaulting party, where possible, to take remedial steps to avoid termination; or
“Convey its decision within 15 days, either declining the application or granting approval for the applicant to suspend the service.
Where the service has been suspended for a period of 3 months and the party against whom notice was issued has not taken satisfactory steps to warrant the reversal of the suspension, the Commission shall approve the final termination of the National Roaming Agreement.
Responsibility for Regulatory Compliance
Each Network shall be responsible for its own compliance with regulatory provisions under the Quality of Service Regulations, including but not limited to quality of service and network availability, according to the new NCC National Roaming guidelines.
To be continued:
The new Guidelines can be accessed HERE