Parliament has unanimously passed the Electronic Communications
(Amendment) Bill, 2016 into law to give legal backing to the operation of the Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH).
By the passage of the Bill into law, the Electronic Communication Act, 2008 (Act 775) has been amended to legalize the establishment the ICH as the only way for telecom networks to interconnect with each other.
The ICH, to be ran by a licensed operator, Afriwave Telecoms Ghana, will also connect all individual International Wholesale Carriers (IWCs) to the various telecom operators’ networks. It will also be a connection point for other communication exchanges in the country and for new entrants into the telecom industry.
In doing so, the ICH will facilitate revenue assurance in real time and on the behalf of the state institutions charged with monitoring telecoms revenue.
It will also perform many other functions such as helping to fight SIMBOX fraud more aggressively, facilitate reconciliation of traffic volumes and its related revenue between telcos and Value Added Service players among several other things.
Ahead of the passage of the law, the licensed ICH operator, Afriwave had already deployed and connected its monitoring equipment to the networks of the various telecom operators and started a test run in preparation to go fully operational by May this year.
Afriwave has to wait until May to start because when it got the ICH license, Obuasi West MP and two others filed a law suit against Afriwave, National Communications Authority (NCA) and telecom operators challenging the legality and necessity of the ICH.
The litigants argued that there was no law to back the establishment the ICH and its operations was also going to interfere with the privacy of the customers of the telecom service providers.
While that matter was in court, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) extended a controversial contract it had awarded to Subah Infosolution Limited to continue monitoring telecoms operators’ revenue flow.
GRA terminates Subah
The Subah contract extension ends in May 2016, with a promise to extend further for five more years. But the GRA wrote a letter dated February 4, 2016 to Subah informing them of GRA’s intention not to renew the contract after the first year.
The GRA stated categorically in that letter that “the GRA is by this letter giving you notice of its intentions not to renew the Agreement upon the attainment of the anniversary of the Agreement that is on May 5, 2016.”
It further stated that “The GRA gives notice and notice is hereby given that it intends to terminate this Agreement by exercising its rights under article 8 of the Service Agreement.”
So when Subah finally packs out of the telcos’ and the NCA’s premises by May, Afriwave will take over seamlessly and continue with the work of monitoring revenue for the state as it finalizes modalities to do real interconnect operations.
It remains to be seen what becomes of the law suit by Kwaku Kwarteng etal in the face of the new Electronic Communication Amendment Act, 2016.
Meanwhile, Minister of Communications Dr. Edward Omane-Boamah said he is glad that MPs approved of the Bill unanimously and that shows that the need for an ICH in Ghana has clearly been understood.
He noted that the MPs called for even more ICH set ups and that is something government will consider when the need arises in the future.
The Minister said the coming of the ICH brings a significant local content into the Ghana’s mainstream telecom industry and that is good for the economy in terms of job creation and revenue for the state.
“You would notice that out of six telecom operators in the country, the state has minority shares in only two and that leads to capital flight which contributes to the huge fluctuations of the cedi against the dollar – but the ICH creates a situation where a significant part of the revenue will remain in Ghana, it will help to strengthen our currency,” he said.
Dr. Omane Boamah also hinted of plans to initiate a domestic roaming policy to compel telcos to partner each other in ensuring that where telco ‘A’ does not have coverage, telco ‘B’ will provide service to the telco’s A’s customers and the two will share the revenue.
This policy will stop the ‘no coverage’ problem but also mean that the ICH would have to be the middle man in connecting a domestic roaming activity and be entitled to an interconnect fee.