Smaller telecommunications operators in the country, led by Airtel Ghana, are seeking cover under the national Communications authority (NCA) against low tariff promotions by major telcos while Vodafone and Tigo fight back.
Airtel wrote to NCA and proposed a number of regulatory regimes including controls on off-net (calls from one network to another) and on on-net (calls within same network) tariffs and the need to declare a significant market player (SMP) as a tool to control competition.
Subsequent to Airtel’s proposal, NCA implemented a 4Gp per minute minimum interconnect rate, which was accepted by all, and then asked each telco to do their respective position papers on the on-net bit.
Meanwhile, the telcos were unaware that it was Airtel that made the proposal to the regulator.
It turned out that market leader MTN took a neutral position, apparently because it has the numbers to survive, whether on-net is controlled or not. But the second and third largest telcos Vodafone and Tigo were opposed to it. Glo hurriedly joined Airtel in supporting the proposed protectionist policy.
But the irony of the whole matter is that the smallest telco, Expresso is said to be opposed to the move to control on-net tariff, which is meant to protect smaller telcos.
NCA still went ahead and proposed a minimum on-net tariff of 4Gp per minute and that has divided the front of the telecom industry to the extent that two of the telcos went to court to fight the move.
An official of Glo, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said that Glo had no idea the move was originated by Airtel.
“We thought it was an NCA policy and we do not want to be seen as opposing the regulator.”
The Glo official however stated that “we think it is not good for the consumer and the regulator should be seeking the interest of the consumer. this industry is already over regulated,” the Glo official said.
Meanwhile, an official of Airtel Ghana admitted that Airtel did write to the NCA and made those proposals to ensure general sustainability and fair competition in the industry.
The official said airtel was more than happy to be associated with initiating such “laudable” policies that promise to secure the future of the telecom industry because “we think NCA cannot supervise the collapse of this industry.”
Proponents of a regulated on-net tariff argue that currently, even though most telcos in the country are not profitable, telcos with a larger number of customers are engaging in “predatory pricing” and that is forcing the smaller ones to also reduce their tariffs in order to keep their customers.
meanwhile, vodafone and tigo have taken the matter to the electronic Communications tribunal seeking to thwart the move because they believe it is not in the interest of the consumer, who deserves the freebies if a telco can afford it.
the tribunal is yet to set a date for hearing to begin