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Simboxing: Fraud or technological advancement? Another view

This is a rejoinder to an article written by Nana Kwaku published by the Daily Graphic on March 23, 2015. 

The purpose of this rejoinder is to contribute to the debate regarding the Government of Ghana’s policy of managing the menace through Interconnect Clearance House (ICH). This write-up explains the concept, traces the business and political history of simboxing and highlights why it is a fraud but not technological advancement. 

I will follow with another piece that will share a business case, which supports Anti-Simbox solution.

Mechanics of simbox fraud

Simbox fraud is a practice whereby unlicensed telecom operators collaborate with their foreign counterparts to divert legitimate source of revenue from the government and licensed operators in the country.  They use devices to divert international telephone calls to a Ghanaian SIM card embedded in a device called Simbox, which regenerate the calls to the intended recipients in the country. The incoming international calls bypass the approved route called Gateway and appear as a local call. 

This can be likened to a visitor who enters a house through the window or over the fence wall. Will such a visitor be described as a technologically advanced visitor or a simple thief?

Historical facts

Telecom operators throughout the developing world, including Ghana, have depended heavily on revenues from international incoming calls over the years. It has been a major source of building the networks that are still underdeveloped in most African economies. The developed economies misunderstood it as a medium of taxing their people to fund network and infrastructural expansion in developing countries. 

They introduced several counter measures to reduce the international call rate. These measures include the FCC Benchmark Order. 

Global telecom operators, who usually pay the international call rate, worked with small unlicensed operators in developing economies to bypass the approved routes of terminating international traffic. 

In my opinion, this is smuggling of service-trading through unapproved routes.

Fraud not technological advancement

Fraud is defined as abuse of position, or false representation, or prejudicing someone's rights for personal gain. Put simply, fraud is an act of deception intended for personal gain or to cause a loss to another party. Simbox operators in Ghana are unlicensed for the business they are engaged in, making it illegal. They collaborate with their foreign partners to work against the economic interest of Ghana and its licensed telecom operators for their personal financial gains.

Simbox solution

I do not share the opinion that the solution to the problem is the removal of the gap existing between local call and the international termination rates. 

There is a strong business case supporting government and operator solutions, which ensures that government and licensed telecom operators receive the needed revenue to fund infrastructural expansion. 

The policy of the Government of Ghana to introduce Anti-Simbox Prevention Solution through ICH is an innovation which needs the support of every good Ghanaian. 

Ghanaians need to support local initiatives which take care of the interest of the country and its citizens. 

We cannot continue to be deceived by powerful foreign collaborators.

The author is an International Telecom Business Expert with industry experience since 1998.