Heated start for telecoms chamber
By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana
Ghana’s newly-convened Chamber of Telecommunications has launched with a challenge on its hands – to improve service quality.
The official launch of the new chamber this week saw the government and telecoms operators going head to head on the issue.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama said the chamber would allow operators, government and regulators to collaborate on policies and projects. Among other focus areas he hoped to see the chamber address were the provision of more data services and the possible listing of telecommunications companies on the Ghana Stock Exchange.
However, the launch event degenerated into an apparent cold war between the new Ghana Chamber of Telecom (GCT) and the two governmental agencies over the quality service rendered to subscribers.
Speaking at the event, Communications Minister Harruna Iddrisu said the government would no longer tolerate the slightest poor quality service by any telecoms operator, because poor service quality could have grave implications for life and business. He accused the telecoms operators of disrespecting the regulator in delaying the payment of recent fines for poor quality service and urged the Chamber to impress upon its members to pay up in 24 hours or lose their operational licenses.
Last month, the NCA imposed a fine on the five operating telecom companies in the country for poor quality service. So far, only three of them – Tigo , MTN and Airtel, have made some payment up to the tune of GH¢300,000.
In response, the Chief Executive of the GCT, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, cautioned the NCA and the sector ministry to tread cautiously in its dealings with the network operators since these may led to the disruption of major developmental projects across the country.
“One of the longest-unning problems that is hurting telecoms companies is the cost and hurdles in deploying infrastructure and the complete absence of predictability in how our local authority determine business operating permits when it comes to mobile phone company,” he said.
“Do we want the mobile phone services in our communities or not? Do we want improvement in the quality of service or not? How do you expand broadband internet access and enhance quality if we obstruct the very infrastructure that delivers it? If we dissuade and hurt and punish the companies that want to deploy them, how? This is not a tobacco industry. Don’t we realize that this industry is a direct and visible enabler of economic and social activity and outcomes?”
Sakyi-Addo also used the occasion to remind stakeholders how mobile phone companies had invested over USD5 billon in Ghana since the mid-nineties and currently employed - directly and indirectly - over 1.5 million people. He noted that nearly 38% of all the revenues of mobile phone companies went to government; 10% of all government income came from mobile phone companies; telecoms directly accounted for 7% of capital investments in Ghana, and according to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), telecoms was responsible for a third of GDP growth in 2010.
In an earlier interview with BiztechAfrica, Sakyi-Addo said the Ministry of Communication and the NCA treated the telecom industry as a ‘cash cow’ and stressed that some day the proverbial cash cow would be milked to the extent that there would be no more milk to draw.