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General News of Tuesday, 8 August 2000

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Telephone industry expands

Accra - Ghana's mobile telephone industry is expanding at a faster rate than predicted. There are now 110,000 subscribers enjoying the services of three main telephone service providers.

The country has five licensed mobile cellular operators but only three of them are currently serving the public.

Spacefon tops the cellular phone industry with 50,000 subscribers, followed closely by Mobitel that has a clientele of 40,000 subscribers. Celltel, a relatively smaller company among the three has a little over 2,000 customers.

The first cellular phone service in Ghana was initiated by Mobitel in 1992. In that year alone, 19,000 Ghanaians owned mobile phones. In 1998 the number of mobile phone users in the country increased to 43,000 and by the middle of 1999 the number increased to 68,000.

Ghana Telecom, which prior to telecommunications reforms enjoyed absolute monopoly and did not enter into the cellular phone industry, has changed its mind and will soon launch its cellular phone service now undergoing test transmission.

In 1992, Ghana Telecom had 100,000 subscribers and by 1999 its subscriber base increased to 191,158.

Ghana Telecom now accounts for over 73% of telephone lines in the country. In addition, Ghana Telecom is installing pay phones throughout the country.

There are now over 5,000 pay phones in Ghana compared to 3,000 in 1998, an increase of over 31% in 1999.

Westel, another telephone company that operates on the platform of Ghana Telecom is also providing pay phone services mainly in Accra.

The competition in the telephone industry is keen but most of the telephone companies are providing sub-standard service. Many telephone subscribers have lodged complains but the situation remains the same.

The National Communications Authority (NCA), the body set up by an Act of Parliament to monitor the orderly development and operations of efficient telecommunications facilities, says it is working hard to raise standards in the telephone industry. The NCA is yet to make its mark in the eyes of the public.

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