The Broadband Communications Chamber (BBCC), an advocacy group for the development and expansion of the broadband industry has called on the National Communications Authority (NCA) to ensure for regulatory uniformity and fairness in the broadband space.
"Currently, there remains a great deal of uncertainty in the Ghanaian broadband industry…If this uncertainty persists, the Ghanaian broadband industry shall not be seen as attractive to investors. It, therefore, goes without saying that it is important for the regulator to help us all see the clarity in regulation in order to ensure sustainable investments," the Chamber said in a statement.
It, therefore, urged the NCA to make available regulatory frameworks in areas that will reduce and eliminate as much as possible barriers and obstacles, which impede standardization, uniformity, and fairness in order to enhance growth and competitiveness in the industry.
The statement said BBCC believes that such clear-cut frameworks will provide the industry greater access to the much-needed investment for the rapid expansion of broadband particularly to underserved and unserved areas of the country.
"BBCC looks forward to improved clarity, understanding, transparency and globally sound practices for the broadband industry as a means of ensuring sustainable socio-economic growth and development in Ghana," it added.
Disparities and unfairness
The call has particularly become necessary at this time because of the obvious and disturbing disparities and unfairness in the industry created by the NCA itself.
Key among the unfairness in the system that NCA sold a 4G license to MTN at a whopping $67.5million, while three Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) paid $6million each for theirs and two others, Busy Ghana and Telesol allegedly got their 4G authorization for a paltry GHC200,000 each.
Again, while MTN and the three BWAs paid for proper licenses, Busy Ghana and Telesol only got away with authorization without proper licenses and the NCA has not explained the reasons for that, in spite of several efforts to get an explanation.
NCA has also given leading broadband capacity wholesaler, MainOne a retail license, which it has deployed in the Central Business District of Accra, but NCA has denied Google a retail license after Google had installed fibre in Kumasi extensively to implement a smart city project there.
CEO of the Broadband Chamber, Gustav Tamakloe said the disparities and unfairness in the regulatory environment is a put off for investors so it is critical for the NCA is come out with a clear regulatory framework to give proper direction to the industry.
"We have MNOs (mobile network operators), BWAs, ISPs (internet service providers), fibre companies and tower companies all in the broadband space so we need clear framework that takes all the players into consideration and ensures fairness," he said.
Tamakloe lauded the NCA's approval of the Tigo-Airtel merger as progressive, but questioned by the NCA would approve a merger but halt partnership proposals between Vodafone and Surfline, and another one between MTN and Goldkey.
Months ago, Vodafone and Surfline submitted to the NCA a partnership proposal that would allow the wider spread of Surfline's 4G LTE capacity on Vodafone's network but NCA stopped it for "lack of a regulatory framework".
Broadband Chamber believes such impediments in the way of partnerships is not particularly progressive and looks forward to NCA putting measures in place to make the partnerships happen quickly.
"We are following the NCA as the regulator but it is important for the NCA to realize they don't operate in a vacuum – they must put out frameworks that drives the industry towards realizing the UN Broadband Commission's goals," he said.
Meanwhile, BBCC also observed in its statement that clarity and fairness of the regulatory environment is critical to realizing the recommendations of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and Government’s strategy of rapid broadband penetration and development.
The UN Commission urges policymakers, the private sector and other partners to make deployment of broadband infrastructure a top priority in their strategies to accelerate global development and progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Chamber said Broadband is a critical part of any national economic and social development agenda and will drive economic growth, productivity and job creation.
"As the Government continues to push broadband reforms in Ghana, it is important that we focus efforts on achieving regulatory uniformity and fairness to ensure that the industry and its members will not be unduly burdened by uncertainty in regulatory frameworks, which may limit the interests of investors in the sector," they noted.