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Ghana reviews Electronic Communications bill

Ghana reviews Electronic Communications bill.

The government of Ghana, via the National Communication Authority (NCA), has amended the controversial draft Electronic Communications (Interconnect Clearing House services) Act 2016 and is hoping for an improved response from the public and stakeholders.

The ICH system for local telecom companies was introduced last year as a policy to ensure cost efficiency in interconnection and facilitate interconnection for emerging service and application providers, and thereby make service delivery affordable to subscribers.

However, the policy has attracted controversy since its introduction. A pressure Group, OccupyGhana, immediately questioned the legality of the policy and issued the government a seven-day ultimatum to review it.

Additionally, Afriwave was awarded the first ICH license after a competitive bidding process against four other applicants in February. Local think tank Imani Ghana was sceptical and described the selection process as "fraudulent".

ICH as a statutory component

The amended act, which is an upgrade of the 2008 version, will provide for the official inclusion of the ICH as a statutory instrument for the mandatory clearing house services by connecting entities – licensed network operators or service providers. These include the monitoring of traffic volume and transit of traffic.

Unlike the existing peer-to-peer interconnection system used by operators, the ICH serves as a third party that requires telcos and international carriers to connect their gateways through a centralised clearinghouse in a way that will lead to the reduction of cases that require mediation by the NCA.

The bill, presented in parliament in February, seeks to reduce the number of interconnection links in Accra from 32 to 15, address insufficient interconnection capacity, resolve interoperability issues based on differences in telcos' equipment types, and settle issues within call data records reconciliation which have led to high interconnect debt rates.

A centralised national platform is expected to address other industry challenges such as the lack of technical redress to the issues of stolen phones, uncertain subscriber identity and to facilitate connectivity with other platforms while still providing an efficient billing, and payment settlement process with a verifiable call detail record.

Key among the outlined purposes of the ICH in the draft are to operate and maintain the capacity to connect and route national and international traffic irrespective of protocol and technology and maintain the capacity to host local and international over-the-top service providers.

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