Telcos chamber warns of spectrum shortage

The CEO of the Telcos chamber is calling on policymakers to allow for technology neutrality, as well as sharing and trading spectrum, in order to meet the country’s demands for data

Kenneth Ashigbey, the chief executive officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunication, has warned that efforts to close Ghana’s yawning digital divide are in limbo, following widespread concern of spectrum inadequacy among Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

He said even though spectrum is a valuable state asset and governments have the option of using it to raise revenues for funding vital state activities, the primary goal in all awards should be to encourage their most efficient use through investment in high-quality networks.

He is therefore calling on policymakers to allow for technology neutrality, as well as sharing and trading spectrum, in order to meet the country’s demands for data.

“It is important extra spectrum comes in to salvage the situation,” he told Business and Financial Times on the sidelines of a media engagement. “The fact is that we are now using a lot more data than we envisaged; even if you have all the investments in but you don’t get the spectrum, you will have a problem.

“So, definitely no! We don’t have adequate spectrum in this country. And not only do we not have adequate spectrum, all the MNOs have spectrum which are technology-specific.

“It’s important that extra spectrum comes in…so the digital migration is able to happen; then technology-neutrality, so that the various MNOs can re-farm some of the spectrum they have for different kinds of technology. Then, also, sharing spectrum has to happen.”

Samuel Bartels, regulatory manager of Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN), backed the telecommunications chamber’s call for spectrum-sharing and technology-neutrality.

“The rollout needs to be fair,” he stated. “We have spectrum sitting there that is limited to 2G. There must be technology-neutrality whereby an MNO can decide what it wants to use its spectrum for. So, if you have 70% of your subscribers using 4G, you can then decide that I will use most of my spectrum to support 4G. The regime now is quite strict, and so you are unable to turn your 2G into a 3G or 4G spectrum,” he said.

Selorm Brantie, vice-president of IMANI Africa, told B&FT in an interview that spectrum is the life-blood of mobile communication, and maximising its availability in a timely and planned manner is critical for economic growth.

“Network sharing is something that has been done in quite a few countries. Brazil and Canada, for instance, had their regulators have policies like that to benefit small communities where a full-scale investment in providing 3G services wouldn’t be prudent financially.

“This is because such communities were spread over wide geographical areas but still had small numbers, whose subscriptions wouldn’t really add much in terms of ROI,” Brantie said.

For him, spectrum and network sharing or roaming will offer better access to digital resources – especially for e-health and online education or e-learning.

“For some people who are only domiciled in rural areas, it is the only way they can catch up and receive financial services and other efforts designed for enhancing Ghana’s digitisation drive while not marginalising others because they do not live close to urban centres,” the Global Strategy Director for mPedigree said.

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