NCA ordered to stop Vodafone Ghana from killing ISPs
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:09 AM
The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu says Vodafone Ghana is engaged in practices that are killing internet service providers (ISPs) and the National Communications Authority must bite harder at Vodafone and stop them.
Speaking on Metro TV’s Good Morning Ghana origramme, the minister said Vodafone is playing both wholesaler and retailer by selling bandwidth to ISPs whiles Vodafone runs internet cafés itself, which is more efficient than those of the ISPs and thus subtly harming the business of the ISPs.
He said the ISPs have written several complaints and petitions to him and he thinks their complaints are fair so he has asked the NCA to take the matter up and bring Vodafone to book.
Mr. Iddrisu noted that Vodafone has also shown a lot of arrogance to government in the area of international call verification, saying that till date Vodafone has been preventing government from installing verification equipment on its premises.
He said Vodafone has gone to seek a court action to place an injunction on government from proceeding with the international call verification exercise.
But Mr. Iddrisu sounded a warning to Vodafone that no court action can prevent government from going ahead with the verification exercise.
He said there is overwhelming evidence that some telecom operators, including Vodafone are engaging in call by-pass, where international calls terminate as local calls in this country.
The minister said the practice is a fraud that allows the telecom operators to charge more or less than that fixed 19 cents per minute of inbound international calls, adding that the practices denies government of tax revenues on inbound international calls.
Mr. Iddrisu said even though he had assured all telecom operators that government will not install equipment that interfere with the privacy of their customers, Vodafone in particular insists that they have a witness to testify in court that the verification systems interferes with subscribers privacy.
Prior to the implementation of international call verification, the minister announced that government lost about six million dollars in taxes on inbound international calls to fraudulent practices by telecom operators.
The implementation of the system was met with fierce resistance by the telecom operators and some pressure groups in the country, but since it started in June this year, government has reported of raking in some $14 million in three months, which is a clear indication there was fraud.
The minister used the occasion of the rebranding of Zain to airtel and Kasapa to expresso to state strongly that government will not back-off on the international and domestic call monitoring to stem fraud and generate revenue for the state.
He therefore called on all telecom operators to cooperate with government in that direction.
The minister also announced that government and the regulator has fulfilled all its obligations towards Globacom so the ball is in their court to start operations in their own time.
Meanwhile, Vodafone Ghana Corporate Communications Director, Carmen Bruce-Annan said they, along with other mobile operators are defendants in the court case, which was brought by individuals who have concerns on international call verification.
On the questions of Vodafone playing wholesaler and retailer on the broadband market, she said “we continue to support enterprise and we are investing heavily in infrastructure that powers the best retail and customer experience for both ISPs and Vodafone Ghana.
“We are of course, willing as always to co-operate fully with the government and the NCA to deliver this.”
By Samuel Dowuona
CAMERON DUODU writes: It is instructive that the Minister had absolutely nothing to say about the failure of the telecom companies to allow phone users to make calls to networks different from the one whose phone customers are using. When I arrived in Ghana in late September 2010, my international rover phone welcomed me to “MTN”, but when I tried to use it, I couldn’t! So I bought a new phone at a telephone-selling booth at the airport. But after waiting for it to be charged, when I tried to call my folks to come and pick me up, I got the silly, mendacious announcement: “The xyz phone you are calling is either switched off or out of range”. I had to borrow a phone on a different network, from a kindly stranger, before I could make the call. Throughout my stay in Ghana, I encountered this absolutely maddening problem again and again. Sometimes, I had to call someone whose number responded to mine and implore him to make a call for me.
I had arrived in Ghana from Abuja, where all telephone numbers began with 048 and where you never fail to get connected just because you are calling a number on a different network. This situation did not occur as a gift from heaven — the Government of Nigeria made it clear to the phone companies that their licences would be in jeopardy if they did not speedily agree on inter-connectivity Maybe the Ghana Minister should go and copnsult his Nigerian counterpart!
In Ghana, the Government appears only interested in the revenue it can obtain from the telecom companies, not the efficiency of the service they provide to the public.
On the question of the ISPs, while I sympathise with them for criticising Vodafone for being both a wholesaler and a retailer, I think they should find ways, such as cutting their overheads, that will enable them to still compete with Vodafone. If Vodafone fails to deliver the amount of bytes it has contracted to supply to them,they should take it to court for breach of contract. But if it is constantly delivering the full amount they have purchased, without undue interruption, then they have no right to dictate,in a free market, what Vodafone may or may not do. Competition is supposed to bring out the best in everyone.
Jeff Martin says:
November 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm
I’m normally not a fan of Ghana Telecom (Vodafone) but in the case of international traffic it is good that they are standing up to the government. NCA should deregulate the international call market and allow voip. They are protecting they self interest and the average Ghanaian is paying through the nose.