Dominant fixed line telco Ghana Telecom (GT) says it will introduce a pre-paid telephony service for home users by December this year, as it attempts to cut down the number of customers defaulting on their bills. The new card-based system will also allow users to make calls at public phone booths and GT has signed agreements with a number of major banks to allow customers to top up airtime at their branches.
The pre-pay system is one of a number of service upgrades originally due to have been implemented in 2004, but an ongoing feud between the state – which owns 70% of GT – and minority shareholder Telekom Malaysia has obstructed funding for the plans. The Malaysian company only grudgingly granted permission for a USD150 million loan from Alcatel Shanghai Bell for the project in April last year. With the feud between the government and Telekom reportedly close to a conclusion, GT’s management company, Telenor Management Partners, is pushing ahead with plans to expand the telco’s network to a number of new cities: 40,000 lines are to be provided for the Kumasi exchange, 4,000 to Dormaa Ahenkro and 30 and 60 respectively to Dompoase and New Edubiase. Other plans include the replacement of outmoded telephone links to Kete Krachi with synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) technology; the rollout of services to Nkwanta and other towns along the northern Volta; and the expansion of services in Navrongo, Akatsi, Sekondi and Teshie-Nungua.
The work is part of the state’s plan to expand GT’s network to around 400,000 fixed and 750,000 mobile lines by 2007. In April the operator received its first infrastructure shipment from Dutch vendor Teledata Networks, under a network expansion agreement signed in March 2004. The telco has yet to announce its equipment suppliers for much of the scheduled work, but earlier this week Ghana’s communications minister Albert Kan-Dapaah expressed his desire to hand a number of contracts to Swedish vendor Ericsson. ‘We know Ericsson and we have a lot of regard for the company,’ he told local news sources. ‘We are ready to do business with you for the sake of the telecommunications industry in Ghana.’