The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications is expectant of specific details on how a national roaming policy will be rolled out.
This comes on the back of an announcement by the Communications Minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, on the introduction of a national roaming policy which would allow telecoms service users to automatically switch to the strongest available network irrespective of the service provider used.
This, according to the Minister, forms part of measures to extend voice and data services to all unserved and underserved rural areas in the country.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, September 2, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said, “Just as roaming outside the country is possible, so it is internally and therefore some conscious efforts are underway to make it a reality soon. The move will augment government efforts at ensuring good telecommunication services across the country.
We want to promote national roaming, so that if you go somewhere where your network doesn’t operate, but another network is there, you will automatically roam on the other network and get the services and be able to receive and make calls and use data.”
“This will prevent the carrying of multiple devices just so you communicate clearly at different locations in the country. This is the same as travelling abroad and using your own network there because you are roaming. So we want to promote national roaming as well. It is part of the conversation we are having with the operators and we would want it done,” she added.
The Telcos Chamber, the institution under which the mobile networks fall, on the back of this, has welcomed the initiative.
However, its Chief Executive Officer, Ken Ashigbey, is of the view that a lot of planning would have to go into the policy before its implementation in order to benefit every stakeholder.
“The Ministry has issued the policy directed to the NCA and the NCA has started engagements with the various MNOs to be able to operationalise the national roaming policy. Generally, roaming is not a bad policy and so as an industry, we welcome it. But what definitely has to happen is the details. We need to work out the details. So there are technical considerations that we need to do,” he said in an interview with Citi Business News.
“What form of roaming are we going to do? Is it just for areas where there is no coverage or is undeserved? Is it only for areas where if the quality of one operator’s network is bad, you then hold onto another network? Is it something that you do on a permanent automatic basis? After you’ve dealt with the technical issues, there are commercial discussions that you need to have. There are also issues of quality of service. So all of those conversations would have to be had.”
Ghana’s telecommunications industry has seen immense growth with lively competition and innovative services in the last two decades.
Penetration of mobile voice is high and has exceeded 100 percent, mainly because of the multiple SIM cards usage by subscribers.
Information gathered from the National Communications Authority indicates that the total voice subscriptions at the end of July 2017 were over 35 million. This represented a total penetration rate for the month under review of 130.35 percent with MTN as the market leader.
The Communications Ministry, in past years, have considered and announced its plan to formulate a policy to enable mobile users to enjoy domestic and international roaming.
In December 2019, the Communications Minister announced that consumers can enjoy free mobile roaming services in ECOWAS countries from January 2020.
This was after Parliament approved an amendment to the Electronic Communication Act to make it possible for mobile phone users to be able to travel throughout the West African sub-region operating their mobile phones without any extra charges.