Home5G & BeyondGhana approves plan for neutral host company to roll out 4G-5G  

    Ghana approves plan for neutral host company to roll out 4G-5G  


    Country also signals desire to be an IXP for Africa modelled on Euro-IX 

    Ghana has confirmed plans to establish a neutral shared infrastructure company to deliver nationwide 4G and 5G services. 

    The announcement was made by the Minister of Communication and Digitalisation Ursula Owusu-Ekuful at the African Peering and Interconnection forum. She said the move will help service providers extend their services to the rural areas and help government achieve its digitalisation agenda. 

    “We have just been granted approval to have a neutral shared infrastructure along this lines, we’ll be working with network operators and private investors to set up a 4G and 5G network as well, so we are not going to be auctioning 5G, we are giving it to this networks so that all operators can use it and extend it to about 80% of the population,” she said. 

    In July, Ghana’s regulator the National Communications Authority (NCA) introduced technology neutrality for non-significant market power operators, stating the move: “a significant step towards correcting market imbalances and boosting consumer choice in the telecommunications sector.”  

    With the market currently dominated by MTN, the regulator made the move that will grant Vodafone Ghana and AT (formerly AirtelTigo) authorisation to re-farm their spectrum assignments in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands to provide 4G services, subject to paying an annual premium. 

    According to TeleGeography, technology neutrality is the latest remedy to be applied by the NCA following MTN Ghana’s classification as an operator with SMP in June 2020. Other measures implemented by the regulator include asymmetrical interconnection rates; the removal of MTN’s differential on-net/off-net pricing for voice and data traffic; and national roaming agreements allowing rival operators to use MTN’s networks in selected areas. 

    Cote d’Ivoire also went for sharing but for different reasons 

    Last week, neighbour Cote d’Ivoire’s telecom regulator the Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications de Cote d’Ivoire (ARTCI) announced it was looking to speed up 5G rollouts in the nation by implementing network sharing. Ecofin Agency said the regulator is looking for a contractor to manage the network sharing process. 

    Cote d’Ivoire’s move had been made to free up the operators from capex in a market that is stagnating despite the nation’s GDP growing. Orange, MTN, and Moov have seen revenues stagnate – or even fall – for several quarters now.  

    The regulator decided to intervene and increase mobile tariffs to help the sector but reportedly did a U-turn after widespread media condemnation. With a mobile penetration rate of more than 165%, and three strong competitors, operators can only win customers through price drops. 

    The Africa Report wrote: “Between investment injunctions, soaring fixed costs, falling revenue and heavy taxation, the margins generated by Orange, MTN, and Moov are no longer sufficient to absorb the capital invested in the networks.” 

    Ghana’s undersea cables 

    At the conference, Ekuful confirmed the government had approved 2Africa’s cable which will add to the five already connecting the country. These include SAT-3, MainOne Cable System, West Africa Cable System, Glo-1 and Africa Coast to Europe (ACE). 

    “By adopting this initiative, we anticipate a reduction in transit costs, which will make Internet services more affordable. We encourage internet and network service providers, bank service switching nodes and government service portals to engage in open peering with the clearinghouse in Ghana, which is critical to fostering a local ecosystem peering and interconnection dynamics,” she said. 

    “We envisage a future where Africa benefits fully from a harmonised African internet exchange point (IXP) akin to the successful Euro-IX model,” she added. “Our environment is ripe for hosting such a regional ISP, and we embrace this opportunity to lead the way towards a highly empowered Africa.”