The Federal Government of Nigeria has commenced the harmonisation of mobile phone short codes in country as part of sweeping reforms of the value added services (VAS) industry.
Short codes are short phone number used to address SMS and MMS messages from a mobile phone, and are mostly used by mobile phone companies, banks and others VAS providers to offer diverse services to phone subscribers.
Molcom Multi-Concepts Limited, an engineering servicing firm hired by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has commenced the process to harmonise short codes in across the country.
NCC last year announced plans to license a VAS Aggregator that serves as the one-stop-shop middleman for short codes in the VAS ecosystem in Nigeria.
Molcom Multi-Concepts, the NCC Consultant handling the harmonisation project says “the goal is to carry out a comprehensive review and harmonization of all existing and active short codes in use in Nigeria.”
The process “includes the categorization of codes into classes based on type of service; recommend common short codes to be used across networks for network services; develop a comprehensive short code plan and recommend a migration date. This may involve organizations relinquishing their current code(s) and migrating to a new harmonized short code(s).”
The harmonisation process follows a plan announced last year by NCC to license a VAS Aggregator that takes over the role of dealing directly with content and application developers in the VAS value chain. NCC says it is undertaking sweeping reforms to bring the Nigerian VAS industry under regulatory watch.
Under the plan, the telecoms regulator has also has mapped out the relationship among players in the VAS value chain as follows: Content Developer ⇒ Content Service Provider ⇒ VAS Aggregator ⇒ Mobile Network Operator.
VAS Aggregator will provide direct and secure connection to content and application providers for access to all network operators that have the capability to transmit value added services to end users, according to the regulator.
“This service will be limited to multiplexing of signals from various VAS providers and distributing same to all network operators as requested by each content and application provider”, NCC says.
The VAS Aggregator will also provide “direct link to the Internet or International Data Access service providers for content and application providers who wish to market their services globally.”
Under the regulatory regime, Content and applications service providers (present VAS licensees) are the only players that will be allowed to pool, host and distribute content and applications using their own in-house software and hardware platforms.
NCC says the Content and applications service providers “will have direct logical links to operators network. They will not be physically linked directly to the operators, but will have to go through aggregators.”
On the other hand, “Developers are unlicensed, freelance creators of content and applications or those who have franchise on such value added services. They are however not licensed to distribute such services. They also do not need a license from the Commission to market their products, other than simple registration.”
The VAS space is a growing segment of the mobile telephony space that has seen over 108 licences so far issued by the NCC to companies located across Nigeria.