The Ghanaian Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful, on Monday, intensified calls across boards for broadband and telecom companies to build up a broadband infrastructure code to allow for the co-sharing of broadband infrastructure.
According to her, “Co-sharing infrastructure would help reduce the overhead cost of broadband firms and telcos and thereby lower the cost of internet and grow penetration”.
In Nigeria, discussions bordering on infrastructure sharing amongst networks are yet to materialize even though two networks recently sealed a deal to co-share networks in areas of deficiency. The two networks are nTel and 9moblie.
Investigations showed that what has been causing endless wait for infrastructure sharing is the inability of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to complete the bidding process for regional operators of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos). Nigeria chose to adopt Open Access Model (OAM), which allows for agreed terms in infrastructure sharing, but that will only become active when InfraCos are in place.
In the last few years, the regulator has only been able to announce Lagos and North Central Zones InfraCos. However, the winners seem to be finding it hard to really deliver based on issues of Right of Way (RoW), multiple taxation and vandalization cases.
Giving more insights at the opening of the maiden Broadband Ghana Forum in Accra, she averred that “Ghana is hosting the first ever Broadband Forum, organised by the Broadband Communications Chamber (BBCC) in partnership with the Ministry of Communications, to initiate a public dialogue on how to revamp the country’s five year old broadband policy and to give proper direction to its Digital Agenda”.
Coming under the theme; ‘Broadband – The Catalyst for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development,’ Ekuful noted that all the issued so discussed including Challenges and Barriers to creating a fully digitally enabled country, advancing digital capacity and capabilities and helping to develop effective telecommunication policies to meet the needs of the underserved and unserved areas and best practice models that are tabled as part of drive to enable Ghana align with international best practices.
She added further that “there were many fibre optic cables deployed by some individual broadband companies, telcos and ISPs which are not being co-shared,” stressing that only when the players mutually discuss how to co-share the infrastructure will the industry achieve the main targets of broadband deployment.
“We have a lot of metro fibre around the large cities while major parts of this country are not covered. We can’t continue this way. It is very expensive to lay fibre, so if we sit down in a room to decide that okay there is enough fibre here. We all want to extend our service to another location”.
“Let us join our resources instead of everybody laying down fibre to extend services. Let’s decide that company A will do point A to point B. Company B will continue from point B to point C. Or an infrastructure company set up not to provide the services but to lay down the infrastructure, will lay down the fibre and everybody will lease capacity to do their work”.
The Minister argued that resumption of infrastructure sharing will in the long run, benefit networks in terms of massive reduction in capital expenditure as they would not need to invest so much in building their own fibre network but can lease capacity from infrastructure companies to extend their services.