NCA concerned about delays in permits for Telcos

Ghana’s telecoms industry regulator, National Communication Authority (NCA) is worried that telecom operators are not expanding fast enough to meet the demands on their networks because of the laxity in the issuing of permits for telcos to expand.

Principal Manager of NCA, Kwame Baah-Acheamfuor said in January this year alone, a particular telco recorded 1.1 billion minutes of on-net calls and by April the same telco was recording over 1.5billion on-net calls, adding that this requires quick network expansion to prevent congestion and other challenges.

He noted that in spite of fast-increasing activity on the various telecom networks, the four permitting agencies (Environmental Protection Agencies, Ghana Aviation Authority, Town and Country Planning and the local government agencies) have been slow to give permits to enable the telcos to expand and offer the quality of service required of them by law.

The permitting agencies usually cite complaints of safety, noise and health concerns by residents of areas where telcos seek to erect masts or lay fibre. In spite of thousands of research findings published by the WHO (World Health Organization) about the harmlessness of the electromagnetic radiation from telecom towers, some Ghanaians still believe they are at risk of getting cancer from radiation.

Some also complain of the noise levels of the standby generators at the cell sites of the telcos, while others feel unsafe about the height of the towers mounted in their communities.

Information gathered by TXTGhana from the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications indicates that, owing to those concerns, tower companies working for telcos have placed thousands of requests for permits to install infrastructure across the country but none of those permits have been granted yet.

The Telecoms Chamber noted that a particular tower company requested for 50 permits two months ago but was given only one, while another requested for 20 but was given none.

In spite of these bottlenecks, when telecom services go bad, the telcos get fined. But the NCA insisted that where it finds that the poor quality of service was due to lack of permits to expand, it does not fine the respective telco.
Baah-Acheamfuor noted that, contrary to the general public notion that NCA is only sitting by and waiting to fine telcos for poor service, the NCA only institutes fines after giving the telcos ample time to fix their challenges.

“The telcos are fined only when we find that the problem was not lack of permit,” he said, adding that “the fines are not meant to collapse the telcos but to punch them in the rib a bit and give them the opportunity to get back on their feet and deliver the service quality required of them,” he said.