Vice President John Dramani Mahama, on Wednesday charged the National Communications Authority (NCA), to apply sanctions against telecom operators that fail to honour their licence requirements to provide quality service to the public.
"Indeed failure of compliance by operators to the primary qualities of service indicators must be met with the appropriate sanctions by the NCA that will prompt them to perform to standard," he said at the inauguration of the refurbished Head Office building of Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of Tigo.
The Vice President said the sanctions should not be left for NCA alone, adding "the public should also sanction operators, which provide poor network quality service by migrating to less problematic networks".
Tigo, originally Mobitel, was the first of six multinational mobile telecom service providers to be licensed to operate in Ghana. Tigo was licensed in 1991 and started operations in 1992. Subsequently Spacefon, now MTN, Celltel, now Kasapa, Westel, now Zain, Onetouch, now Vodafone and Glo have been licensed. With six operators serving a population of 22 million, out of which 64 per cent own mobile phone numbers, network problems such as inadequate service coverage, network congestion, network unavailability, high call drop rates, delays in call set up time, error in connections, voice mutation among other public complains are rampant.
Mr. Mahama noted that these network problems were of much concern to the public and should attract the regulatory attention of the NCA. "Telecom operators must move away from the practice where a user of their telephone service when being reached will be deemed to be out of reach but on the contrary is just within reach," he stressed. He said quality service was crucial in the telecom sector, adding that it was therefore important for the NCA to regulate the performance of key services offered by operators, by setting quality of service standards that would enjoin operators to submit periodic reports of their service quality, as determined by the NCA.
Mr. Mahama said the challenge was for the NCA to regularly review the quality of service requirements, to take into account industry and technology changes, as well as changes in consumer demand, to ensure that the requirement remained relevant. He noted that another area of concern was the alleged health implications of radioactive frequency radiation, from telecom masts and other devices, saying that the operators should make a collaborative effort to alley the fears of the public through research and development and educate the public on the outcome of such research.
"Collaborative research networks could in this regard be developed between the operators and our academic institutions of higher learning to undertake sociological and technical research with the active participation of the public," he said. Mr. Mahama also urged operators to take co-locations of masts more seriously and pursue it on a higher scale. He said the initiative would reduce public anxiety about the spread of masts and also save the operators lots of money.
Mr. Mahama noted that each of the operators tend to erect their own masts with separate standby power generators fuelled regularly in areas of smaller populations, whereas just a single mast had enough capacity to serve all the mobile phone users. The Vice President said the telecom companies could co-locate and cut down on their capital investments and translate them into subsidised rates and social intervention activities to benefit customers and the general public. He reminded operat ors of the need for fair and healthy competition, saying that "this call enjoins the NCA to ensure the creation of an even and fair terrain to facilitate telecom development."
Mr. Mahama said in the near future government would invite the operators to discuss how to increase investments in Ghana's export sector, which generated most of the foreign exchanged consumed by the telecom sector; and also how to step up Ghanaian participation in the telecom sector. Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications observed that "Tigo has refused to suffer from network congestion", and congratulated the company for providing one of the best quality service in the country.
Mr. Percy Grundy, Out-going Chief Executive Officer of Millicon Ghana said since Tigo came to Ghana it had reinvested every cedi it made back into the economy, saying that the transparent look of its new building was symbolic of the company's transparency. He said Tigo Ghana now employed 411 permanent staff, 207 outsourced jobs and 36 on contract basis, adding that the company provided income to thousands of Ghanaians through its peripheral jobs opportunities. Mr. Grundy assured customers of continued affordable tariffs on a reliable network and also assured of continued social interventions through the Millicom Fraternity for Humanity Projects.
Mr. Tismark Inja, Board Chairman of Millicom Ghana, said till date, Tigo had invested half a billion into the economy, $680,000 in training and development and currently had a 1,190 base stations, nine switches, about 2.5 million subscribers and a coverage rate of between 65 per cent in the Eastern Region and 97 per cent in Greater Accra. He noted that the regulator had in the past not played fair towards some operators, including Tigo and appealed to the Vice President to bring his wealth of understanding about the industry to bear on its operations to ensure sanity and fairness in the regulatory environment.
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