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General News of Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Source: Samuel Dowuona

NCA cushions consumers as Parliament okays ICH Regulations

Parliament of Ghana has approved the regulations that cover the operations of an Interconnect Clearinghouse Services (ICH).

The regulations known as the Electronic Communications (Interconnect Clearinghouse Services) Regulations, 2016 otherwise known as the LI 2234 is aimed at regulating the activities of the service providers who connect and route national and international traffic through an ICH.

It will also regulate the operations of an ICH licensed by the National Communications Authority (NCA).

Cost absorbed

The operations of the ICH comes with cost that could have been transferred to consumers in the form of hikes in interconnect rates.

But the NCA said between now and January, 2018, interconnect rates will remain the same, in spite of the operations of the ICH.

This means the NCA is cushioning consumers from interconnection hikes under the ICH regime, as it promised during the run up to the establishment of the ICH.

"The existing interconnect regime does not include the cost of the ICH, consequently the licensing and operations of an ICH should have resulted in an additional cost component to operators who may have passed this on to consumers.

"However, the NCA has decided to absorb the cost component until the expiration of the existing interconnect regime on 31st December, 2017," the NCA said.

ICH benefits

Director General of the NCA, Mr. William Tevie, who was in Parliament during the passage of the regulation, emphasized that all stakeholders must endeavour to make the ICH a success considering the many benefits associated with the ICH service.

He mentioned some of the benefits as the ease and transparency it will bring to debt collection and accounts reconciliation at the end of every month for all stakeholders.

”The Authority will continue to undertake its regulatory functions with integrity and transparency to ensure quality provision of ICT regulatory interventions for the benefit of Ghanaians. Through the ICH, we are able to increase focus on transparency at all levels of operations to ensure ethical functioning within the telecommunication industry," the NCA Boss stated.

The passage of the ICH Regulations brings more than four years of back and forth on the establishment of the ICH in Ghana to an end.

The licensed ICH operator, Afriwave Telecoms Ghana Limited, would work as an entity that provides a common, independent mechanism for the billing and settlement of interconnect accounting traffic for all existing and future operators.

Interconnection is the linking of the networks of two or more service providers, thus enabling the subscribers on one network to access the subscribers of the other networks.

Afriwave would therefore offer the following benefits, among others, to the industry: efficient billing payment/settlement process with verifiable call detail record, reliable efficient and scalable network, reduce billing disputes amongst service providers, thereby minimizing cases requiring mediation by the regulator.

Other services include paving the way for full interoperability of various technologies and classes of service by various Service Providers, operate the common platform for monitoring traffic volumes in Ghana, operate a Centralised Subscriber Identity Registry and operate the Centralised Equipment Identity Registry.