When Ghana’s Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH) is launched, the country is likely to become West Africa’s telecom hub as global connectivity and international settlement services between West Africa operators and their foreign partners take place in Ghana.
But that is not before the High Courts in Ghana determines the legality of the ICH, which is currently being challenged by a Member of Parliament and another citizen.
All six Ghanaian telecom operators as well as their counterparts in other West African countries currently depend on international clearinghouses such as Syniverse, Starhome Mach, TNS, and Comfone for the processing and settlement of their roaming and international traffic relationship with foreign partners.
But industry sources say implementing the ICH to provide this critical role for the operators will make Ghana the first country to implement such a service in West Africa and be the regional hub for the sub-region.
They believe as other West African countries connect to the Ghana clearinghouse, connectivity and provision of telecom service across the sub region will greatly improve, and telcos across the sub region will able to offer cheaper roaming services.
“This will lead to higher quality of service, affordability, prevention of capital flight, creation of high quality technical employment, and improvement of the overall telecom industry of Ghana,” they insist.
Meanwhile, industry regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA) has said the ICH promises improved quality of service in the coming months at no extra cost to telcos and their customers because the NCA will pay for it.
They insisted that under the ICH, there will less congestion on the networks of the telcos, because “the multi-layer redundancies to be built into the ICH network will result in a more reliable interconnect infrastructure in Ghana, ensuring that subscribers witness less network unavailability.”
They have also said the billing and settlement scheme to the implemented would eliminate interconnect indebtedness ensuring that operators open up their networks for termination of calls more freely than is currently the case.
Meanwhile, the ICH would also be monitoring both on-net traffic real time to for tax revenue assurance on behalf of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
New classes of service will also be introduced to the industry as ISPs, VAS Operators, and Content Providers can now easily interface with the major carriers through the ICH.
The burden of ensuring seamless connectivity would no longer be the responsibility of the operators; it will be borne by the ICH operator, so the operators can then devote their resources to customer service and provision of new class of service to subscribers resulting in a more vibrant telecom industry in Ghana.
But the operators themselves have raised a number of objections to the ICH. They insist that their individual interconnect arrangements are working fine so there is not need for a central clearinghouse that threatens to be a central point of failure in case of a fault at the ICH.
The telcos, like several other critics insist the ICH would render the investments into the existing interconnect infrastructure useless and that cost would be passed on to consumers.
They also have issues with the ICH interfering with the privacy of customers who might end up suing telcos for the failures and offenses of the ICH.
Meanwhile, the supporters of the ICH believe it will improve state revenue accruing from the telecom industry and also boost local content in the telecom space.
But all that are subject to the courts to determine.
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