The Network of Communications Reporters (NCR) has commended the telecoms regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA), for opening up the sale of the 800MHz spectrum for all telecom operators in the country to bid.
“NCR believes the NCA’s move is in the interest of the greater majority of the people because when fully deployed, telecom users can have access to super high speed internet and data services while their mobile voice quality will also be greatly enhanced”, it said.
This was contained in a statement jointly signed by NCR Dean, Mr. Charles Benoni Okine and Liason Officer, Mr. Samuel Dowuona.
It would be recalled that the NCA, in 2012 awarded Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) Licenses in the 2600MHz spectrum band exclusively to three wholly Ghanaian-owned companies, Surfline Communications, Blu Telecoms and Goldkey Telecoms in pursuant of government’s local content policy.
The three were to start offering Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) services within 18 months from the time of the issue of licenses. However three years down the line, only Surfline and Blu are operational but they have both not expanded wide enough to enable the greater majority of Ghanaians to taste the quality of 4G services.
Whereas NCR lauds government’s local content policy and appreciates the efforts of the Ghanaian-owned BWA licensees at expanding gradually in the face of their financial and other constraints, “we hold the position that the greater majority of Ghanaians can no longer be denied immediate access to affordable 4G services.”
The statement said, “It is in this light that NCR believes that the NCA, and for that matter the government, could not have taken a better decision than to open up the auction of the 800MHz spectrum to give all telcos in the country the opportunity to access it and improve on their services.”
“It is our understanding that the 800MHz spectrum was originally prioritized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for television broadcasting, but the ITU has now re-prioritized it for telecoms as part of the global digital migration,” the statement said.
It said the NCR was therefore glad when the NCA announced it will from December 3 to 8, 2015, auction a pair of 2x10MHz spectrum blocks within the 800MHz band for improved 3G and 4G telecoms service.
According to the statement, Mobile communication is fast moving to IP (internet protocol) based globally and that is largely driven by mobile broadband technologies, the best of which is now 4G technology, which offers 10 times the data speeds 3G offers and therefore gives users greater experience than 3G does.
It said the new technologies also promise the rollout of innovative services such as mobile health, mobile education, mobile agriculture and several others that will benefit the greater majority of Ghanaians.
Data uptake in Ghana is growing very fast. This is confirmed by NCA’s Mobile Data Subscription Report which shows that 3G data connections have crossed the 60 per cent mark.
Indeed other industry reports show data consumption has grown by over 250 per cent within the last 11 months alone, and by 10,000 per cent between 2011 and now.
On the basis of the foregoing, NCR is convinced that Ghanaians are hungry for data and cannot wait for the best data technology for much better experience.
“We have taken note of some concerns raised by the BWA license holders, but we believe that their position denies Ghanaians a quick and affordable access to 4G, which is not a policy any government should pursue,” it said.
The statement said “NCR fully acknowledges the need for local content, but believes strongly that local content is not necessarily about ownership but more about participation in the value chain of the resource in question”.
“We notice with regret that out of six multinational telcos which command over 30 million mobile subscriptions in Ghana, only MTN, which has about 50 per cent market share has put in a bid for the new license,” it said,
The statement expressed the hope that the other big players in the industry will find innovative ways of gaining access to the appropriate spectrum so that they could give the remaining 50 per cent plus of Ghanaian mobile users access to 4G services.