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Business News of Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Source: Myjoyonline.com

OccupyGhana questions legal basis for Interconnect Clearing House system

Pressure Group, OccupyGhana has given government a seven-day ultimatum to address legal questions regarding the new policy to introduce an Interconnect Clearing House system for telecom companies.

The group is questioning the legal basis for introducing the policy. Communications Ministry has announced plans to implement the system as a way to deal with SIM box fraud.

The system would require telcos and International Carriers to connect their gateways through a centralized clearinghouse.

But Occupy Ghana in a statement has raised 19 questions it says require clarity from government and the telecommunications companies.

ATTN:

The Honourable Minister, Ministry of Communications and Information

The Director-General, National Communications Authority

The Attorney-General & Minister of Justice Attorney General's Department & Ministry of Justice

OCCUPYGHANA WANTS TO KNOW 2015

INTERCONNECT CLEARING HOUSE – DO WE NEED IT?

BACKGROUND


OccupyGhana (OG) has been following the assertions from various stakeholders on the issues concerning the establishment in Ghana of an Interconnect Clearing House (“ICH”).

The Government and NCA allege that some Telecommunication Companies (“Telcos”) in Ghana are involved in scams and are underpaying Government for revenue due to it, which in part justifies the establishment of an ICH.

The Government further argues that the proposed ICH will combat SIMboxing, plug leakages and under-declarations in Government revenue and will even be used as a platform for monitoring mobile financial transactions including MobileMoney.

The Honourable Minister of Communications has confirmed Cabinet's approval of the proposal and that the National Communications Authority (“NCA”) is taking steps to implement the policy.

This notwithstanding, in the face of the NCA's determination to implement the approved proposal, OccupyGhana thinks that certain CRITICAL ISSUES REMAIN UNANSWERED, although the Government appears poised to implement a mandatory policy, which would require Telcos and International Carriers to connect their gateways via a clearinghouse.

While the ICH concept may not necessarily be an inappropriate solution, OccupyGhana has legitimate concerns, a number of which have been expressed by other stakeholders in the telecommunications industry (including but not limited to Subscribers, WASPAG, ISPs and Telcos).

OccupyGhana believes that these concerns MUST be thoroughly discussed and a consensus reached in the best interest of the Country, bearing in mind telecommunication licenses are national assets and the citizenry ought to be assured by Government that all such assets will be harnessed and put to proper use to enable the nation to gain optimum benefit.

OccupyGhana acknowledges, and is supportive of efforts by past and current Governments to push the local content participation and capacity building in business sectors in Ghana. However, we are currently not convinced that the process of developing and implementing the ICH policy has been thoroughly thought through as yet

OccupyGhana urges the Government and NCA, as the Regulator, to address all gaps in order to avoid any national embarrassment.

OccupyGhana and the Citizenry request clarity from the NCA and GOVERNMENT: -

OccupyGhana believes that the engagement of the ICH potentially runs contrary to the legal regime governing interconnection since the law makes no room for a centralized ICH. OccupyGhana therefore requests clarification from:

SECTOR MINISTER, the ATTORNEY GENERAL and NCA.

1. How does the law and current policy support the establishment of a centralized ICH?

2. How will the establishment of an exclusive centralized ICH become the ultimate panacea to SIMboxing? NCA must explain to citizens how an exclusive ICH will sanitise the telecommunication sector, ensure proper revenue reporting and secure better quality of service.

3. Why is Government pushing for the establishment of a centralized ICH now?

4. What are the benefits of such an establishment to the country?

5. In which countries, has this proposed solution worked and do these countries have telecommunication industries typical to that in Ghana?

6. What lessons are we going to apply to ensure optimum results?

7. Was the process of engagement thorough and were the applicable procurement laws adhered to? Was a tender document published, and if so, when, and how many companies responded, and who were these companies, their directors and shareholders?

8. What legal, financial and “fit-and-proper-person” due diligence was carried out for the selection of the operator of the ICH?

9. What expertise does the selected operator have in this area of business?

10. Why is government compelling Telcos to use an exclusive ICH whose selection they have had no hand in?

11. Why implement a new system with an argument that the existing interconnect architecture is complicated and inefficient yet the redundancy plan will rely 100% on the rejected interconnecting architecture?

FOR/FROM SUBSCRIBERS

Below are some concerns that need to be addressed by NCA and GOVERNMENT:

1. Does the ICH, in any way, address consumer concerns on privacy and the quality of service?

2. Are consumer concerns particularly increase in call cost from the cost of inter-connectivity real?

3. If the ICH suffers an outage or a shutdown, will the consumer be able to take any legal action against the ICH?

FOR OPERATORS

Below are some concerns that NCA and GOVERNMENT need to address:

1. How will an ICH realistically and practically improve reported revenue, as is being asserted?

2. Who will bear the additional cost of interconnectivity and SIM registration?

3. Has Government adequately considered other alternatives?

4. What are the practical and technical risks from an ICH, if any, that Ghana should be concerned about?

5. Are any Telcos involved in SIMboxing and revenue under-declaration? Please make the names of such companies available in the public domain.

OccupyGhana agrees that Ghana deserves a vibrant and competitive Telecommunication sector where there is opportunity for growth, fair competition, and adequate return on investment.

OccupyGhana believes in a Telecommunication sector where local content is promoted in order that more capacity is built, and more Ghanaians will gain employment or create business opportunities, and Government will also be assured of the required revenue.

OCCUPYGHANA is therefore entreating the GOVERNMENT and National Communication Authority to exhaust all the available options through a consultative process with all relevant stakeholders before a final “GO” to implementation is taken.

We sincerely hope due consideration and attention is given to the points we have raised above and we will have answers within the next seven days.

Yours in the service of God and Country.

For OccupyGhana

CC

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT

MAJORITY & MINORITY LEADERS

CEO, TELECOMS CHAMBER

ALL CEOs of TELCOS LICENSED TO OPERATE IN GHANA

ALL MEDIA HOUSES