Ghana’s leading mobile voice and data telecommunications service provider, MTN, has affirmed its commitment to deploy the right technology that will enable Ghanaians to reap the full benefits of the digital age.
The assurance from the telecoms market leader comes on the heels of calls by local Ghanaian Information Technology Communications (ICT) companies for exclusivity in the fourth generation (4G) Long Term Evolution (LTE) space in the country.
The companies calling themselves the ICT Chamber last week petitioned the National Telecommunications Authority (NCA) to abide by its initial promise to reserve the issuance of the 4G LTE licence for wholly owned Ghanaian companies in its quest to build the capacity of locals to compete favourably in the ICT space.
But in a sharp rebuttal, MTN said in a statement that “Because of the benefits associated with communications, the core of any discussion on the subject must be about the user and the benefits they can derive, and not about the provider”.
The position of the telecoms giant has been buttressed by many industry watchers as they question the position of the ICT Chamber which intends to monopolise a space in which they have no capacity to fully utilise to enable consumers of advanced technology to derive the best of benefits.
Right to technology
MTN holds the view that “The cross-section of Ghanaians must have uninterrupted access to fast evolving technology and the ability to enjoy all the benefits of the digital age. Technology deployment at an expanded scale makes the services running on that technology more affordable and therefore more accessible to many more people.”
It further noted that Ghanaians deserved the kind of wide 4G deployment that could positively impact the way people communicate with family and friends and the way businesses operate, adding that “MTN has demonstrated a clear focus on making the relevant investments to bring coverage to the widest cross-section of Ghanaians.”
MTN said Network investments have been at the core of MTN Ghana’s operations, as evidenced by its successful ongoing 3G deployments.
“After successfully deploying 2G voice services as part of a strategy to make mobile phone services available to the majority of Ghanaians, MTN began to deploy enhanced data services when it was granted a 3G licence in 2009”, it said.
According to MTN, given the successful widest-coverage strategy for voice with 2G, MTN followed a similar strategy for 3G and was the first mobile operator to fulfil its licence condition to cover 170 district capitals within five years.
“By December 2013, MTN subscribers in 170 districts were enjoying fast, reliable data services, ahead of the January 2014 deadline for the rollout condition to cover 170 districts with 3G services within five years, with some MTN subscribers in some metropolitan districts enjoying speeds up to 42 Mbps”, it said.
Ghana’s telecommunications industry is growing rapidly with mobile voice phone penetration approaching 120 per cent according to industry regulator while data penetration is exceeding 62 per cent.
The growth is expected to increase in the coming years as consumers and businesses move towards increased use of smart-phones and other smart devices, a position the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) widely shares.
With the growth of smart devices, the demand for bandwidth and high speed capabilities will also increase as subscribers exchange, download and upload more videos, music and documents and use mobile applications that are bandwidth intensive.
The Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Ebenezer Asante stated that, “MTN Ghana is ready to roll out the the fourth generation of mobile technology to provide faster and more reliable mobile connectivity in a world where data usage is increasing on a yearly basis.
“MTN Ghana is ready to lead Ghana to join the growing number of countries in Africa and across the globe who are currently enjoying the full benefits of 4G LTE technology to enhance their personal lives and to grow their businesses and ultimately their economies. Furthermore, for a company such as MTN to sustain and enhance the services it continues to provide to customers, spectrum is a necessity. That is why the ongoing 800 MHz spectrum assignment is important to MTN – service sustainability and enhancement,” he added.
The President and Founder of Imani Ghana, Mr Franklin Cudjoe, in an open letter on the issue, said in almost all comparable jurisdictions, 4G licences were allocated to those who could show value as well as a wide reach potential.
“For now, Ghanaians might have to wait for years and stay behind the internet distribution curve just because of the reluctance of the NCA to do the right thing and extend the 4G capabilities with the established telcos, at a time when almost all mobile devices produced since 2014 are all 4G enabled”, he said.
Mr Cudjoe further noted that “Poor policy framework and an inquisitor type administration model will not be the solution to Ghana’s growth. Instead of padding up interventions in the communications industry, the NCA will do well to ensure that policies already put in place address issues related to the growth and resilience of the industry, instead of finding ways to police the system and trump up offenses just to justify perceptions of exploitative tendencies by telcos”.