It is not an experience one enjoys sharing with anyone. It is something that has been brooked for a long time, and that is the rash of uncontrolled and unsolicited short message service, SMS, commonly referred to as text messages I get on my handset daily.
This ugly development compels me to spend more time deleting SMS from my mobile phone than making and receiving calls. On daily basis, I am inundated with at least ten of such unsolicited text messages accompanied by automated calls encouraging one to participate in one bogus lottery or promo.
My problem is further compounded by the fact that I use double Subscriber Identification Module, SIM, phone which is why I spend much of my productive time clearing my inbox of unwanted text messages to make room for important messages to come in. Yet this is not my only headache. Curiously, I find it extremely difficult to use the same quadruple SIM phone that seamlessly takes unsolicited automated calls and text messages from the four networks to reach anyone when the need arises.
Apart from drop calls, many times my calls do not connect due to poor network coverage. My text messages are either delayed or not delivered to intended recipients despite reports indicating that they are delivered. From my experience, there is nothing more disappointing than having more than a single mobile phone line, yet, one can’t be reached on any of them.
My experience is similar to what many Nigerians are passing through. A friend of mine once narrated how he tried unsuccessfully to load a voucher for almost two hours. Few minutes after he had given up, his mobile phone rang and he anxiously picked the call. Alas! It was an automated call from his service provider advertising some of its products and services. He expressed his frustration and said he could hardly understand how the same phone with which he could not successfully recharge or check his account balance was receiving unsolicited calls.
Similarly, one of my colleagues in the office narrated his experience with his service provider which brings the harsh reality of the challenge posed by network congestion to the fore. According to him, he called his friend, but was shocked to hear the recipient, supposedly his friend, speaking in Yoruba language. Confused, he promptly ended the call. Shortly after, he called the number and to his surprise the same thing occurred. It was at the third attempt he heard the voice of his friend at the end of the receiver. Obviously, my colleague was a victim of cross line calls, jammed calls or misdirected calls.
Sometimes, when a call is made, even when the number of the contact person or called party is correct, the call goes to another person, usually an unintended recipient. Although, this has been one of the hitches consumers have had to grapple with since the advent of the much-celebrated telecoms revolution, what is curious and equally painful is that these misdirected calls are billed despite the fact that the caller speaks with the wrong person. And millions of Nigerians, who have fallen victim to this fraud hardly have a reprieve.
Other cases of the sharp and consistent drop in the quality of telecoms services offered consumers across the networks apart from persistent call drops and delayed SMS delivery, include muffling of calls such that even when calls go through, one hardly hears what is being said and call hanging. Users of popular and prestigious Smart phones are not spared this agony. Subscribers across the networks are also screaming blue murder over billing irregularities as money is usually deducted from their accounts even when calls are not made.
In the heat of public outcry over the poor services and irregular billings by service providers, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) wielded the big stick, directing all telecoms operators to provide instant SMS service to all phone users at the end of every call. Such SMS service is expected to provide full details of the cost of each call and available balance to the subscriber. This directive, however, has not in any way halted the rip-off of the consumers as unbridled deduction of money from subscribers accounts has continued unabated.
In the light of these, my concern as well as those of my fellow Nigerians is that there is urgent need to halt the continuous defrauding of Nigerians and the deterioration of the quality of service provided by the GSM service providers across the country in order to give consumers value for their money. NCC has to impose stiffer penalties and sanctions on operators who default in accordance with the powers of the commission.