Four leading telecom operators in the country, MTN, Tigo, Zain and Vodafone, have started co-locating their antennae on more than 150 cell sites across country, Mr. Brett Goschen, Chief Executive of MTN Ghana, said on Thursday. "MTN leads industry movement on voluntary co-location agreements currently being executed for over 150 sites to be shared with Zain, Tigo and Vodafone," he told the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
As at January 2009, there were 3,000 cell sites in Ghana, according to the National Communications Authority (NCA). MTN leads the pack with 1652, Tigo has 699, Vodafone with 378, while Zain has 250 and Kasapa 112. Glomobile recently received permits to erect towers in the country. Records at the NCA also show that as at March 2009, MTN had 6.8 million subscribers, generating about 60 per cent of telecom sector revenues in country.
Mr Goschen said MTN alone required a minimum of 3,650 permits per annum to mount cell sites across the country to be able to provide the highest quality service. Other operators have complained of challenges with obtaining permits to mount adequate numbers of cell sites to serve their customers, but the challenge went beyond the refusal of agencies to issue permits. Members of the public have resisted the erection of telecom cell sites and masts in residential areas, citing health hazards from radio frequency radiations (RFR), noise and fumes from standby power generators, among other reasons.
The regulators and permit agencies, particularly NCA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have in the past called on the operators to voluntarily co-locate as a way of reducing the spread of telecom masts and thereby easing public anxiety. However, scientists have said that the health concerns about RFR are unfounded and that co-location would only reduce the number of towers but not the RFR emission levels since the same number of antennae would be on fewer towers.
Mr Robert Palitz, Managing Director of Kasapa Telecom Limited, has cautioned that co-location could lead to signals interfering with each other and should therefore be treaded cautiously. But Communications Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, told the GNA that government was fully in support of co-location, particularly because it serves to reduce public anxiety about the hazardous effects of RFR from telecom towers on human health.
Meanwhile, government and industry regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NCA, have prepared a draft document intended to seek legislation on co-location as a licensing requirement for telecom operators, and also to spell out the modalities for mounting telecom masts anywhere in the country. The NCA has also said that it would soon employ a third party to erect masts at strategic locations across the country for the purpose of co-location, to relieve operators of the burden of finding suitable locations for cell sites.
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