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General News of Thursday, 16 December 2010

Source: Samuel Dowuona, Adom FM

Ministry Fires Back At Telecom Operators

The Ministry of Communications MOC) said in spite of the criticisms from telecom operators, it will continue to support and encourage the National Communications Authority (NCA) to pursue its ‘call busting’ activities and help protect the Ghana telecoms market from the dumping effects of the illegal activities within the sector.

“Government of Ghana is committed to the implementation of the international gateway monitoring exercise and the compliance with the national laws will not be compromised,” it said.

This was contained in a five-page response to a communiqué issued by the West Africa Telecommunications Conference (WATC) and endorsed by the Ghana Telecommunications Chamber (GTC).

The communiqué, titled “Dakar Declarations – concerning international call monitoring”, was published in a local newspaper and portions of it have since been published in various media in country.

The communiqué out-rightly condemned the monitoring, levying and surcharges on incoming international calls and called on telecom operators in West African states to resist it.

The WATC said it breaches a number of international telecom laws and treaties and threatens to lead to fraud, increase consumer burden and also reduce international call traffic and revenue.

They pledge support for telecom operators and promised commitment to fighting the system until it is weeded out from the continent.

But the MOC the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications would not have rushed to endorse the communiqué if they had had the full understanding of international telecom laws and how they related to developing countries and to Ghana in particular.

“In the rush to discredit the exercise by Regulatory Authorities in Africa to establish mechanisms to protect the markets from dumping and anti-competitive practices and raise revenue for development, the Telecom Operators in their Statement made serious misrepresentations, for which reason it is necessary to throw more light on the international telecom operations.

The statement said contrary to assertion that the system will reduce incoming international traffic, the records show that incoming international calls has increased considerably since the implementation started in Ghana and revenue has gone up.

It said with regard to the assertion that the tax increases the retail prices, it is pertinent to note that in Ghana, Act 786 specifically provides in section 1.3 that ‘a network operator shall not charge its customers for its services because of the minimum rate for international incoming electronic communication traffic’.

“It is therefore incumbent on the telecom operators to comply and ensure that no increase in retail prices will be made on account of the observance of the minimum rate for international incoming traffic to affect subscribers/consumers,” it said.

The MOC said the WATC/GTC also got it wrong when they required Ghana to obey a treaty from Bamako, saying that the meeting of ICT Ministers in Bamako on 29th July 2010 was a meeting of the UEMOA member countries, which is a francophone grouping that Ghana does not belong to.

It noted that the WATC conference in November was sponsored and organized by France Telecom, and was attended by Vodafone and some operators in an ostensible attempt to frustrate the regulation of the activities of the telecom operators in the wake of the increasing popularity of the success of anti-fraud activities being undertaken by the NCA.

“The France Telecom-engineered conference has made an assumption that the tax on international traffic runs counter to the decision of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference of 1998 that requires settlement fees to be cost based.

“This statement demonstrates a clear mis-understanding of the ITU - The protocols of a Plenipotentiary Conference also reserve the right of individual countries to set aside the provisions of the Conference where these conflict with sovereign interests of the particular country.

The MOC said it was strange that telecom operators in Africa would allow themselves to be misled by France Telecom to criticize a system that is working to ensure sanity in the telecom industry as sanctioned by the ITU, whiles France and other European countries like Portugal, Hungary and Spain have several special telecom taxes in their countries.

“Aside from these special taxes, the European countries also impose General Telecom tax, Numbering tax; Spectrum tax; and Land occupation tax on operators for occupation of land for the deployment of their networks.

The statement noted that since the exercise started in Ghana 59, 180 fraudulent SIM Card have been found and reported to the respective telecom operators and 8,000 of those were from Vodafone and Airtel alone.

It insisted that it is only helpful that in an industry where fraudulent characters are able to acquire multiple SIM Cards, continued service from telecom operators and the ability to terminate international traffic, there should be strict regulations to ensure government does not lose revenue.

The ministry insisted that they will continue to do what is right by the people of Ghana, and in accordance to domestic and international laws and protocols. ENDS