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Ghana looks to spectrum sales to fund digital migration

Ghana looks to spectrum sales to fund digital migration.

Following the successful sale of a block of 2x10MHz/800MHz spectrum bands to MTN in December for US$67.5-million, Ghana is looking to sell a second block for the same price in the coming weeks to pay for its migration from analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), says its deputy communication minister.

Ato Sarpong said the sale of the second spectrum would enable the country to fulfil its US$82.3 million payment to complete its contract with K-Net Limited signed last October for the supply and installation of a Digital Video Broadcasting Second Generation (DVB-T2) Terrestrial network.

Using the revenue accrued from the sales would forestall the need for any loans and reduce government's spending, Sarpong said.

According to the National Communication Agency, Ghana signed the Geneva 2006 (GE‐06) agreement of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to switch from VHF/UHF analogue broadcasting in Africa, Europe and parts of the Middle East to digital television in June 2006 to clear up spectrum often referred to as the "digital dividend".

Despite missing the ITU's June 2015 deadline, Ghana's transition now seems feasible this year as the contract with K-Net demands the completion of the DTT network in 12 months, with the project structured for completion in nine months and a further three months to resolve any challenges.

The 800 MHz frequency band was earlier allocated by the ITU to the broadcasting service on a primary basis in Region 1, but was later allocated on a co‐primary basis to the mobile service at the World Radiocommunications Conference 2007 (WRC‐07) to be used for mobile electronic communications services.

With abundant supply of Internet bandwidth capacity from undersea fibre optic cables (15Tbps), Ghana is allocating the 800 MHz frequency band for mobile broadband services to improve the low usage of its bandwidth capacity which, according to NCA, stands at under 5% of the available capacity.

Lower than the frequency used for 3G services in Ghana currently, the frequency in the 800MHz band would enhance the attainment of wider coverage at a lower cost and provide higher data speeds with operator expected to provide services based on Fourth Generation (4G) Technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE).

Sarpong said the sale of the spectrum for broadband applications would expand value added services, encourage competition and lead to competitive pricing of products and services thus creating jobs in the distribution, sale and installation of set top boxes.

If the second auction is managed in the same way as the first, coordinated by KPMG as the auctioneer and in which four entities submitted applications with Scancom Ghana Limited (MTN) emerging as the winner, the timetable for the Spectrum Licensing should span about two months.

In the first case, the publication of auction notice was October 5 and the winner was announced on 25 November 2015.

According to NCA's Scope of the Licence, the spectrum licensee(s), among others, may use any technology of their choice to provide any electronic communications service of their choice, including public voice and data services, subject to the prevailing legal and regulatory framework for each service

The two 800MHz band spectrums on sale are 2x10MHz (801–811MHz)/(842 – 852MHz) and 2x10MHz. [i.e. (811–816MHz)/(852–862MHz).

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