Business News of 2013-12-03

MTN blames network challenges on system upgrade

Telecom giant, MTN Ghana, has blamed the frequent call drops, wrongful deductions of customers' airtime, data losses and general congestions in the network to an ongoing modernisation of the company’s infrastructure.

The company's Chief Executive Officer, Mr Serame Taukobong, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on November 25 that the company was investing about US$100 million to digitise its entire operations, stabilise the network as well as improve and increase Internet connectivity nationwide.

That upgrade, he explained, sometimes conflicted with the ongoing operations and that led to the frustrations suffered by subscribers nationwide.

But once it is concluded, hopefully in the next four months, Mr Taukobong said such difficulties would cease to exist and instead be replaced by a clear and hitches-free network.

"The challenges that we are facing are part of the modernisation process. We are upgrading while spear-running and I think by the latest three to four months, we should have completed the modernisation process which then allows a far more stable network," he told the paper in an exclusive interview in Accra.

His comments come on the back of increased customer dissatisfaction over series of data and voice related challenges on the MTN network, one of the six telecom companies operating in the country.

MTN, which is operated by Scancom Ghana Limited, currently holds the largest market share in the data and cellular services. Its data subscriber base is about 5.9 million while cellular is at 12.8 million as at September, this year.

That translates into a market share of about 57.68 per cent for data usage and 46.3 per cent for cellular services, according to the website of the National Communication Authority (NCA).

However, that marked leadership in an industry that boost some 26 million subscribers has not come without challenges to the network.

While some of the company's subscribers always complain of data and airtime losses, others express dissatisfaction with wrongful termination of calls, unsolicited text messages and general call congestions.

The situation worsen in the past few weeks with widespread complaint by customers who reloaded airtime only to lose them.

Some, however, got extra airtime as high as GHC132.

One such beneficiary, Mr Umaru Sanda Amandu, wrote an article critiquing the company in a Facebook post titled 'stealing from the people and giving to Sanda; the story of MTN's inefficiency.'

MTN Ghana's CEO said the company shared in these frustrations, especially given that they were at variance with the company's commitment to service quality.

"Certainly, its not something that we are happy of. Its something that has received my personal urgent attention because like I said, the key thing for us is service excellence and we have to make sure that our customer service is consistent and consistently good," he said.

He admitted the challenges on the network but called on customers to be calm as it worked towards improving the platform on which the company operated.

He also disclosed that the company is currently moving its network into an Internet protocol (IP) environment, investing more in fibre to improve its third generation (3G) network and boosting the MTN Mobile Money to properly serve the growing clientele.

These interventions,he said started about six months ago and would run into next year.