29 March 2016

Ghana: SIM Box Fraud - Govt Lost U.S.$ 900,000

Ghana is believed to have lost a little over $900,000 in just five months according to communications and security experts due the activities of SIM box operators in the country in collaboration with their foreign counterparts.

According to these experts, these loses could have been avoided should the nation institute functional regulatory measures to check the telecom industry.

To help address the challenge of SIM box fraud which has costs the nation several millions of Ghana cedis and other peculiar challenges facing the telecommunications sector, Parliament has passed into law the Electronic Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The new law is expected to streamline and rationalize activities of the various players in the telecommunications industry and provide a fairer atmosphere for industry players whiles prohibiting the possession of unregistered SIM cards in the country.

This makes it a criminal offence for the possession of unregistered SIM cards, which has been used to defraud the state in the past in accordance with the laws of the land.

The Bill amended the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) to provide among others, a regulatory mechanism for clearing house services through the establishment of an Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH) by the National Communications Authority (NCA) to address current regulatory, technical and financial challenges related to interconnection in the sector.

The law requires that all telecom network operators interconnect with each other via a single system, the ICH unlike the current peer-to-to-peer system of interconnection with its associate challenges such as congestion, poor quality of service delivery and huge capital expenditure by a single operator.

Parliament before the adoption of the law major changes in the Act including changing the monopoly status of the ICH and now mandates the NCA to have multiple ICH facilities through licensure to enable competition which the former provision sought to erode.

The house also removed the provision which grants the ICH operator the license to conduct revenue monitoring services which is the preserve of the Ministry of Finance.

Ghana's ICH would be operated by Afriwave Telecoms Ghana and is expected to route both local and international traffic which is currently being done by the respective telecommunication companies in the country.

The telecom operators would still work with the current arrangement until the ICH facility becomes fully operational within the next six months for a complete switch over.

Interconnect Clearing House will significantly help the country fight the menace of SIM box fraud which has deprived the country and telecommunication companies' revenues amounting to billions of cedis.

SIM box operators allow calls from international destinations to be diverted to Ghana as local calls and at a cheaper rate charging international carriers 19 cents per minute of call as against the local interconnect charge of four pesewas thereby depriving the nation of revenue.

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