2 October 2017

Ghana: Minister Charges Broadband Chamber

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The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful has asked the Broadband Communications Chamber (BBCC) to initiate public discussion on how to revamp the country's five-year-old broadband policy to give proper direction to the digital Ghana agenda.

The Minister gave the charge when the leadership of the BBCC, led by its Chairman Dr. Yaw Akoto and Chief Executive Gustav Tamakloe, called on her to introduce the chamber formally.

Government is embarking on national digitization drive dubbed "it's digi-time in Ghana", but the main ICT industry policies - the 2012 National Broadband Policy and Implementation Strategy and the Telecoms Policy do not appear to be relevant to the times.

Industry players have pointed out that the broadband policy, for instance, does not capture Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) operations, Wireless Applications Services and other key emerging technologies, and it does not also address the issue of consolidations, which has started happening in the industry.

The broadband policy does not even mention 4G LTE and yet that technology is here and the world is already moving on the 5G.

The telecom operators have also pointed out that the key targets in the telecoms policy have long been met and so the policy has long become irrelevant. They mentioned the voice and data subscriber base targets for instance, which were met years before the deadline.

So it has become necessary for a complete overhaul of the policies, and possibly to consolidate them into one unified policy as government seeks to pursue one national ICT agenda.

The Minister therefore asked the BBCC to start regular industry forums that will generate the needed insights for the review of the national policy to serve as a relevant guide for the digital Ghana agenda.

She also pointed out her vision to spread broadband connectivity nationwide, particularly to the tourists destinations mainly located in deprived communities that lack broadband connectivity.

Part of the process has begun with the authorization of telcos to use their 900MHz 2G spectrum already in the unserved and underserved area to deploy 3G technology and provide data services in those areas.

The Minister also assured the Chamber of her commitment to ensure the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) was applied to drive widespread broadband connectivity to ensure no one is left out of the national digitization process.

Indeed, at the just-ended International Telecoms Union (ITU) World Conference in Busan, South Korea, Deputy Minister of Communications, Nenyi George Kojo Andah, made the point that even the pursuit of digital terrestrial television (DTT) calls for a review of the national ICT policies.

BBCC has therefore taken the challenge to lead the way through regular national broadband forums, beginning November this year to generate the needed guidance for the review and revamp of the national broadband and telecoms policies.

BBCC CEO Gustav Tamakloe noted, for instance, that the policy needs to state clearly how to measure and report on the country's broadband status because that is good for investor decisions.

He noted that consolidation and alliance within the industry is the way to go and the players are willing to go that direction but the policies and the regulatory framework do not exist for that to happen smoothly.

"That is one key area we will be looking at in our series of broadband forums," he said.

Tamakloe said the annual Broadband Forum series would primarily engage industry players including policy makers, regulators, operators, content providers, consultants and other stakeholders in frank discussions about what direction the country's ICT development should be going.

"We believe the focus should be on how to strengthen and mainstream local players because they are more likely to develop country-specific services and initiatives that will propel the country to achieve it development goals," he said.

Tamakloe said the Chamber would also be focusing on challenging the young content makers through app and ICT product/service development competition that would afford participants the opportunity to popularize their apps through the platforms of all BBCC member organizations.

Currently the members of BBCC are the three BWAs - Surfline, Blu and Broadband Home plus K-Net; and steps are underway to bring in Google, MainOne, Nokia, Huawei, all ISPs and even telcos and wireless applications service providers.

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