Telecom Tariffs To Go Up Next Year

Interconnection charges between telecom companies in the country are set to increase by 50 per cent with effect from January next year. The charge, which is currently 4Gp per minute when a call is made, will be increased to 6Gp and this is likely to impact on call tariffs paid by consumers of telecom services. The Principal Manager/Head of Licensing, Regulatory Administration at the National Communications Authority (NCA), Mr Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor, told a forum organised by the authority in Accra on November 26, that the interconnect charge, the amount each telecom company pays to a competitor when a call from one network terminates on the other, will go up every year. Interconnect Clearing House The NCA will also establish an interconnect clearing house in the country by the middle of next year. The clearing house is expected to provide a common, independent mechanism for the billing and settlement of interconnect accounting traffic for all the existing and future telecom operators in the country. It will also, among other things, take over all the functions relating to the preparation of billing information and reconciliation reports and the reconciliation process itself within one of the country�s most vibrant and competitive industry. Rationale for interconnect charges Mr Baah-Acheamfuor said there had been many issues relating to the auditing of the charges and reiterated that the clearing house would prevent the occurrence of such problems and ensure greater transparency. He said the clearing house would take advantage of the opportunities of a centralised national platform in addressing other industry challenges such as the lack of technical redress to the issues of stolen phones, uncertain subscriber identity, traffic volume monitoring as well as facilitate connectivity to other platforms. He said the clearing house could lead to a reduction of up to 40 per cent in the interconnect charges, a move that would also impact on the tariffs paid by consumers in the country. Mr Baah-Acheamfuor said there would also be lower cost setup of new connection of switches and new service providers. Open forum During the open forum, various speakers registered their displeasure at the new system citing various reasons including what they said would be an additional cost to the telcos which would be passed on to the consumers. They also mentioned failed attempts in many other countries, including neighbouring Nigeria and warned of similar consequences in Ghana should the NCA proceed to the process. However, Mr Baah-Acheamfuor said the NCA had undertaken a lot of studies on the system and would pursue it because of the benefits. �We will make Ghana�s Clearing House more unique just as we did with the MNP and other systems introduced to make the sector better�, he said. He noted that the consultation process would continue and gave the assurance that the NCA will take all the concerns of the stakeholders into consideration to ensure a smooth implementation. The licence process In its quest to ensure transparency in the licensing process, the NCA intends to invite proposals from eligible entities registered under the Ghana Companies Act, 1963, Act 179 for the grant of a licence to build and operate an interconnect clearing house in the country. Accordingly, in pursuance of its mandate under Section 27 of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, Act 775 and Section 4.1 of the National Telecommunications Policy 2005 (NTP‟05), the Authority has begun soliciting for views and comments from licensed communication service providers, consumers of communication services and the general public on the appropriateness and award process which could be accessed on the authority�s website.