Business News of 2014-06-17

Vodafone vendors flout NCA directives

Vendors of Vodafone Ghana are grievously violating the directives of the National Communications Authority (NCA) which, among other things, bar the company from selling any new Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards to the public from June 6 until July 31.
According to them, they will not stop selling the cards because they have not been officially informed by Vodafone or any authority to stop. Consequently, they said, they would only stop selling if Vodafone recalled the cards from them and refunds what they invested to acquire the SIM cards from the company before the ban.
In many parts of Accra for instance, the vendors of the company were not only selling the cards but were also illegally registering them to enable their customers to use it immediately after purchase. When the Graphic Business went on mystery shopping throughout last week, it observed that although the vendors were aware of the directives from the NCA, they were still adamant.
Some of the vendors, stationed right opposite the former head office of Vodafone near Circle, are still selling and registering new customers with fake ID numbers. One of the vendors who sold and registered one of the SIM cards to the reporter admitted he would be arrested if found selling the SIM because it was not properly registered but not because the company had been directed to stop selling the cards.
“I cannot stop selling the SIM cards because I bought them from the company before the ban was imposed,” he said, adding that “I have no choice but to sell them to recoup my investment”. He said he would only stop selling them when the company asks the vendors to return the SIM cards for their money.
Another vendor, who also sold and registered one of the SIM cards to the reporter said he did not see any reason why he should not sell the SIM because he bought them with money and could not wait for the ban to be lifted before he started selling them to his customers.
He also said the only way he would stop selling was when Vodafone decided to call back all the SIM cards and refund the money spent on them. At Kaneshie, Makola among many other areas, the situation was no different as the vendors told similar stories to the reporter.
The ban
The telco with the second biggest market share was suspended from acquiring new customers either through sales and activation of new SIM cards or by porting. The NCA had said in a statement that it had been concerned that in recent times, Vodafone had been experiencing challenges on its network, a situation which had, in turn, been affecting consumers’ service experience.
“This is a situation the Authority does not find acceptable, considering the impact of communication services to Ghanaians,” it added. “The Authority is hopeful that Vodafone will utilise the period to find permanent solutions to the issues and thereby improve the quality of service experience to existing consumers,” the statement added.
Vodafone has subsequently been ordered to immediately investigate thoroughly and rectify full, all issues on its core network involving their recharge platform and the home location register. The directive, according to the industry regulator, follows the unsatisfactory network quality of Vodafone.
Subsequently, it directed Vodafone to fix the problem by the said date while the NCA conducted tests to satisfy itself that the network’s Quality of Service to consumers had improved. A fortnight ago, the abysmal service quality of the company frustrated millions of Vodafone subscribers who could not make calls, top up credit or use data bundles.
Although it did not say, some IT?analysts attributed the defects in the Vodafone network to lack of expansion to accommodate the growing subscriber numbers. According to NCA figures, Vodafone currently has 6,480,434 mobile subscribers, 258,313 fixed line users with a total market share of 22.61 per cent as of March 2014. The figures make Vodafone the second biggest telecom company after MTN.
Vodafone report
The company, according to an earlier Daily Graphic report, submitted to the telecom regulator that the crisis was as a result of a network failure which affected all subscribers on its fixed and mobile networks. When contacted, the CEO of Vodafone Ghana, Mr Haris Broumidis, said, “We are engaging with the NCA, I have nothing more to say”.
However, in an apology posted on its Facebook wall, the CEO said the company had instituted a full-scale investigation into the incident and would soon provide a detailed report to the regulator, the NCA.
Fines
The NCA has also been on a fining spree since 2012, but the move has not proved deterrent enough, as poor services, characterised by call drops, call breaks, network congestion and Internet interruptions have compelled some users to subscribe to more than one network.
It has been obvious that, the rate at which the telecos add subscribers to their numbers was more profitable than the fines imposed on them. In May, last year, five telcos — MTN, tiGO, Glo, Airtel and Expresso-out of the six operators, were slapped with fines totalling GH¢900,000 for providing poor services to their consumers.
Although the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications has mostly been on the defence of the telcos using cable cuts as an excuse, it is obvious that the challenges had to do more with lack of network expansion to accommodate the growing subscriber numbers. The telcos seem to have focused more on marketing and promotions than investment in network expansion.