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xxxxxxxxxxx of Saturday, 24 October 2015

Source: samuel D

Parliament confident ICH will stop telecoms revenue leakage

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications has expressed confidence in the ability of the newly set National Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH) to stop the revenue leakages in the telecom industry.

The ICH was set up by Afriwave Telecoms Ghana, following a provisional license from the National Communications Authority (NCA) earlier this year after Afriwave won a competitive bid to implement the national ICH policy.

It has been set up to do a number of things, including real time verification of all interconnect traffic as well traffic coming into this country from outside to ensure that government got its proper share of the revenue accruing.

Part of the core work of the ICH would also be to fight SIMBOX fraud in a more robust and aggressive way, the details of which was shared with members of the Parliamentary Committee when the met Afriwave and NCA today and also inspected the ICH installation.

Chairman of the Committee, Albert Abongo told journalists members were impressed with the detailed explanation about the work of the ICH, particularly its focus on sealing the revenue leakages within the industry and securing revenue for the state.

"From what we have seen and heard so far we believe the ICH will seal the revenue leakages in the system but we hope it will rise to the occasion when perpetrators of the leakages get sophisticated," he said.

Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of Afriwave, Philip Sowah told the MPs phase one of for ICH is fully set up in Accra and it is ready to start work from today.

He explained that the phase one comprise the installation and deployment of the core network and transmission infrastructure in the city of Accra, specifically in a rented space at the National Data Centre.

Philip Sowah said the completion of Phase One meant, as of today, Afriwave is ready to offer services including monitoring of volumes of all traffic for telecom service providers, provision of anti-fraud management and revenue assurance systems, and accounting for revenues to Government under Act 864 and Act 786 and to provide technical support to enforce all telecommunications revenue tax compliance from October 2015.

So phase one is mainly to ensure proper accounting and revenue assurance for government from the telecom industry.

Meanwhile, there is a pending court case that seem to prevent the ICH from kick starting immediately, but the CEO said "we are only waiting for the green light from the regulator, once we get that we do not even need telcos to connect to our system, we will start work."

There are several other deliverables expected from the ICH and Philip Sowah said they will all be tackled in subsequent phases.

He said ICH would make interconnect architecture between telcos less cumbersome, more efficient and cost effective, and also make room for new entrants into the telecom space to interconnect with existing players.

"Currently each telcos is forced to connect to five others and the mesh is so cumbersome because some telcos have more than one switch in Accra alone so for each of them to connect to all these switches is just too cumbersome and ICH will solve that," he said.

In terms of real time verification, he said the ICH will do mediation for raw interconnect communication data on each telcos network before generating the call detail records (CDRs), unlike the current situation where telcos do the mediation themselves and generate CDRs for the NCA.

"One of the issues in the telecom industry is the question as to whether telcos are declaring all their revenue - once we get the raw CDRs and mediate at the ICH it will help government to know if indeed telcos are declaring all their revenues," he assured.


Philip Sowah said ICH would also implement more robust and aggressive three-step approach to fighting SIMBOX fraud. The three steps are the test call solution, CDR profiling and localization.

He explained that currently all the telcos combined, make a total 120,000 calls from abroad a month to enable them identify SIMBOX numbers and block them, but ICH would for starters make 400,000 calls a month from abroad and that will help to identify way more fraud SIMs and deactivate them.

"We are working with the best anti-SIMBOX fraud company in the world, Meucci to generate these calls from abroad and we terminate them here to identify bad SIMs and report to the respective telcos to deactivate," he said.

As part of the first phase also, the ICH would also help telcos to reconcile their interconnect revenue once they get connected to the ICH.

He said two more of the installations in Accra would be mounted in Kumasi and in Takoradi to provide enough redundancy against any unforeseen circumstances.

"It is important to point out that each of the installations is designed to carry interconnect traffic nationwide and they are each connected to each other so it does not matter which one a telco is connected to, if one breaks down the other takes over and communication continues," he said.

International Gateway

The ICH is also designed to do a passive monitoring of incoming international calls, where the traffic first hits the telcos gateways before going through ICH to the final destination, which is the recipients handset.

But when independent international wholesaler carriers come into the market, calls going through their gate way will first hit the ICH before going to the telcos' gateway to be sent to the recipient.

The Afriwave CEO said value added service providers also stand to benefit from easier connection to all telcos and one-stop-shop revenue reconciliation with telcos at a ICH level.

Philip Sowah is confident that the team put together at Afriwave to man the ICH have the experience and expertise to deliver on the mandate.

The list include former Chief Technical Officer of Tigo Ghana, Femi Banigbe as implementation consultant and Chief Operating Officer, Henry Sehayor, Chief Finance Officer, Francis Poku, Deputy Managing Director, Donald Gwira (former head of Corporate Affairs at Airtel), Director of Corporate Affairs, Kwame Anokye, formerly of Alcatel Lucent as Chief Technical Officer, Francis Amedeku from Airtel, and Osman Issah from Ericsson as Projects Manager.

Director-General of NCA, William Tevie said he believes the ICH is ready to start work any day and he hopes that will be sooner than later.

Some MPs raised question about whether the ICH is not a duplication of Subah Infosolutions, but an NCA official, Kwame Baah Acheamfuor explained that Subah deals with domestic calls, while ICH will deal with both local and international calls.

He also pointed out that currently telcos submit CDRs to NCA about 14 days after the end of a particular month, which means NCA is not getting CDRs in real time so ICH will assist the NCA to cross that bridge and generate real time data.

Expected ICH Deliverables

In the main, the expected deliverables from the ICH licenses are as follows:

Establish a common platform for the monitoring of traffic from all service providers,

Maintain the capacity to route SMS, MMS and any other communication traffic among service providers,

Monitor traffic volumes for each provider and ensure full operability for all service providers

Maintain the capacity to host local and international over the top (OTT) service provider (data applications)

Authenticate SIM registration before they are activated

Provide equipment identity register service to ensure only type approved equipment are certified for use in the country

Operate and maintain anti-fraud management systems for revenue assurance for government and service providers

Provide common infrastructure for government agencies to host ICT services and store confidential data securely

Connect to MNP, bank switches, internet exchange etc as and when needed

Facilitate reconciliation among registered service providers and among other financial clearinghouses

Account for revenue to government under the law - Act 786 and Act 864 and

Provide technical support to enforce all telecom revenue tax compliance.