Ensure all telecom operators come aboard the 5G rollout

The government has taken a significant step towards enhancing its telecommunications infrastructure by opting for a wholesale network approach for fifth generation (5G) technology.


5G is the fifth generation of wireless cellular technology, offering higher upload and download speeds, more consistent connections and improved capacity than previous networks.

The country has awarded a licence to Next-Gen Infrastructure Company (NGIC) to build and operate a shared 5G network. (See our front page). The seven partners in the NGIC’s consortium are the pan-African systems integrator, Ascend Digital, local satellite teleport operator, K-NET, and telecom technology giants Radisys, Nokia and Tech Mahindra.

Nokia brings a broad range of network infrastructure technologies, while Tech Mahindra and Radisys bring extensive telecom sector experience and innovative solutions from India and the two telcos – AT Ghana and Telecel Ghana.

Internet users can look forward to faster and more affordable mobile data with this planned rollout of the 5G network within the six months. What makes this development noteworthy is that much of the technology and expertise are sourced from India, marking a clear departure from an auctioned-based spectrum distribution.

The primary goal is to boost mobile data service uptake rapidly in a market where 4G adoption is relatively low.  And to further make the point, the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, states that only about 15 per cent of the country’s mobile users have adopted 4G services.

In contrast, 71 per cent are still using 3G, and 14 per cent are on 2G. By developing a national 4G/5G network, the government aims to accelerate progress without relying on the investment pace of private operators.

The creation of NGIC as a neutral, shared platform, accessible to all mobile network operators and tower companies, will help to expand 5G services rapidly across the country. As the sole wholesale 5G licensee in Ghana, NGIC is expected to offer an open access-based neutral platform to all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and collaborate with all tower companies in the country.

So far, AT and Telecel Ghana have signed partnership agreements with NGIC and curiously, the only significant market power, MTN Ghana, is missing from the picture in this all-important shared 5G infrastructure partnership.

Interestingly, MTN had since 2021, indicated its readiness to roll out a 5G in 2022, two years ago, but the desire only remained a pipe dream as it did not receive the approval of the industry regulator, the National Communications Authority.

The Daily Graphic wonders why the engagement and consultation process were not exhausted with all the network operators, including the biggest market MTN, before unveiling the NGIC’s  5G network plan.

Though the Minister had stated that discussions with MTN would begin shortly, and that they were also expected to sign on. For us, the absence of a key market player such as MTN shows a lack of inclusivity to ensure that all service providers have equal access to the infrastructure needed to deliver high-quality services to their customers.

This does not augur well for consensus building, a level playing field and mutual trust among the network operators and the government. If the creation of NGIC is to provide a neutral, shared platform accessible to all mobile network operators and tower companies, the government must work to bring MTN on board to ensure a seamless rollout of the service across the country.

The creation of a shared 5G Mobile Broadband Infrastructure is critical for delivering affordable, high-speed data access to the people of Ghana and help achieve our Digital Ghana vision.

Again, if the objective of the partnership is to enhance the lives of Ghanaians by introducing digital services in education, health care and digital payment transactions through P2P (peer-to-peer), P2M (peer-to-merchant) and M2M (merchant-to-merchant) systems, thereby reducing the digital divide and promoting financial inclusion, all stakeholders must be brought on board.

After all, what we need is a shared digital connectivity that provides network as service that innovates and brings cost efficiency to the telecom market in the country.

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