Telecommunication firms have begun to phase out old Unstructured Supplementary Service Data short codes for new harmonized ones as directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission.
With this move, famous USSD codes such as *556# are now outdated. Customers of MTN Nigeria told newsmen that old USSD prompts now redirect them to a message that reads, “Y’ello Our codes have changed.
While MTN seems to have phased out its old USSD short codes, other Telco’s are yet to do so. Checks on Airtel showed that old USSD codes are working simultaneously with the new ones.
In March, the NCC approved and released harmonised shortcodes for certain mobile operations in the country. The commission stated that this was aimed at achieving uniformity in common short codes across networks, allowing the code for checking airtime balance, for instance, to become the same across all mobile networks.
It gave the mobile network providers a deadline of May 17, 2023, to fully migrate to the harmonized codes. It explained that while the old and new harmonized short codes would run concurrently up until May 17, 2023, all networks are expected to have fully migrated to the new codes by its deadline.
Commenting on the codes, the commission said, “Consequently, under the new harmonized short codes regime, 13 common short codes have been approved by the Commission.
“They include the following codes: 300 to be used as the harmonized code for Call Centre/Help Desk on all mobile networks; 301 for voice Mail Deposit; 302 for Voice Mail Retrieval; 303 for Borrow Services; 305 for STOP Service; 310 for Check Balance, and 311 for Credit Recharge.
“Also, the common code for Data Plan across networks is now 312. In line with the new direction, 321 is for Share Services, while 323 is for Data Plan Balance. The code, 996, is now for Verification of Subscriber Identity Module Registration/NIN-SIM Linkage.
“The code, 2442, is retained for Do-Not-Disturb unsolicited messaging complaint management, while the common code, 3232, is also retained for porting services, otherwise called Mobile Number Portability.”
The NCC added that the initiative will make life much easier for telecom consumers since it will now become easier for consumers to memorize single codes for various services across all mobile networks they may be using.
According to an expert, “The whole essence is just to have it unified. The short code for each service you want is now the same, there is no need to say because I am on MTN I must use this number, if I am using Airtel, I must use another number. The era of that has passed.”
Prior to 2001 when the Nigeria’s telecommunication sector was deregulated, Nigeria had about 700,000 lines, which could not meet the growing demand for telecommunications services by Nigerians. Access to information technology was also limited as a result of failed operations by the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).
The liberalization of the sector ushered in the first Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) operator and the award of the first Digital Mobile License (DML) in 2001. Since then, the sector has witnessed an unprecedented surge in investments (with over $18 billion in investments from 2001 till date) and growth.
The entry of new operators has also deepened the competition in the sector with the teeming subscriber base being better for it. Initiatives like number portability have also enriched consumer experience by limiting hassles to accessing better services on a preferred network.
With less than twelve months to the expiration of the DML issued by the Federal Government to first generation of GSM operators, there has been some focus on what has become of the mobile telecommunications industry and what the future holds for operators in the industry.
Have there been gains or losses? Would providing the traditional services be sustainable in the future? Based on information from the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), there are over 140million active subscribers riding on the GSM technology in Nigeria, each of which subscribes for voice or data services and contribute to the over N1.9 trillion revenues jointly reported by the GSM operators in this industry. This is not a coincidence.
An examination of the recently rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures showed that the telecommunications industry accounted for 8.69% (N6.97 trillion) of the total GDP. The bulk of this revenue is alleged to emanate mainly from voice services – a service line which has slowed down (per user) in the last decade.
This means that to remain relevant it would appear that operators in this sector must focus on providing other services apart from voice. This state of affairs naturally forces the question: what are the potentials in this sector? Driving the huge potentials for operators in the sector are the current trends in information technology (IT) usage – the explosion of the Internet, the internet of Things (IoTs) and the consequent impact of growing device drivers (e.g. smart phones, watches etc.).
There is now a growing trend for “things” to communicate and interact seamlessly with each other without human interference (e.g. devices are able to deliver hot or cold water as soon as the morning alarm sounds).
There is also a lot of communication happening vide the internet and outside the purview of the telecommunication operators (e.g. voice and video calls originating and terminating on technologies like
The risks facing the telecommunication industries include cybersecurity and online fraud, regulatory burden, multiple taxation, vandalism of telecommunication infrastructure, right of way challenges, access to foreign exchange, inter-industry indebtedness, among others.
We therefore pray that the new harmonized codes as directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission will yield the desired result.