Telecom industry regulator National Communications Authority (NCA) said it will bear the full cost of building and operating the Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH) with part of the monies it earns from incoming international calls so there will be no extra cost to telecom operators and their customers.
Principal Manager at the NCA, Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor, who has been leading the drive towards the establishment of the ICH told Adom Business the cry over additional cost is unfounded.
Telcos, Value Added Service (VAS) providers, pressure groups and some opinion leaders have argued that there was no way the ICH was going to be built and operated as a private entity without being paid a service fee for its work. They insisted that service charge for the ICH would automatically shoot up the interconnect rate between telcos and that will be passed on to the consumer, particular for calls across networks.
Baah-Acheamfuor however explained that the state already pays Subah Infosolutions Limited and GVG heavily for monitoring domestic and international traffic respectively, but part of that money would be channelled into funding the setting up and operations of the ICH, and the state would even make huge savings on that.
“Currently the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) pays Subah a percent of the incremental revenue on the Communication Service Tax (CST) and NCA also pays GVG a percentage of the mandatory 6 cent per minute of inbound international calls that goes to the regulatory.
“But the NCA will use just part of the revenue generated from the 6 cents we get from abroad to pay for setting up the ICH and for its operations as well and the ICH will generate domestic traffic records for GRA for free so the state will save the commissions it pays to Subah from the CST; NCA will also save the payments it makes to GVG,” he said.
Baah-Acheamfuor said the NCA had seen the cost of establishing the ICH and also seen its service charges, “and I can assure you that the set up cost and service charges put together are well within what we already pay for monitoring domestic and international traffic so there will be no extra financial burden on any telco and its customers.”
He explained further that the ICH would be offering other premium services for other players within, and outside of the communication ecosystem and therefore generate enough funds to become self-sufficient over time because it is likely the global OTT (over the top) app operators and others would connect directly to the ICH and fetch money for it.
“What we should rather expect is more exciting offers from telecom operators and their value added service (VAS) partners under the ICH regime and not additional cost,” he said.
“I can assure you that by December this year we will all see the real benefits of the ICH in this country.”
The NCA Principal Manager said the telcos stand to benefit from the expected linkage between Ghana’s ICH and its counterparts in countries where local telcos have roaming partners.
He explained that once the ICH connects to counterparts elsewhere, telcos stand the chance of saving money on international bandwidth needed to connect to clearinghouses outside because the local ICH would do that on their behalf at a way lesser cost.
“When this happens, the telcos can even reduce the high roaming charges for their customers and make it easier for more of their customers to do international roaming comfortably without being scared about cost,” he said.
Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor said if telecom tariff goes up on any network and that network attributes that to ICH, customers could comfortably refer the matter to the NCA for redress.
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