NCA raps MTN, OneTouch for poor service quality

15 Oct 2007

Ghana’s telecoms regulator the National Communications Authority (NCA) has given domestic mobile operators MTN, backed by MTN’s Investcom Holdings, and GT-OneTouch, the mobile arm of state-owned national fixed line operator Ghana Telecom, a formal warning over the poor level of services on their respective networks. In a press statement dated 10 October, the NCA noted the gains being made in the sector, but added that in some cases the Quality of Service was ‘anything but good’. In its statement, the NCA said: ‘In our market assessment, both qualitative and quantitative, we have concluded that the services of MTN and OneTouch need improvement, particularly when these parties carry 88% of total mobile network traffic. MTN’s network in particular has to drastically improve to address their growing traffic and resultant complaints of various types by the public. We call on the anagement of MTN to rectify the quality of service problems, particularly their on-net challenges by 8 November 2007.’

If the two companies fail to put their house in order within 30 days they could attract severe sanctions from the NCA. The regulator’s move follows a spate of complaints from customers regarding interconnectivity and poor network services that have left many unable to place a call to the other operator’s network. Here the watchdog is similarly clear: ‘With respect to systems interconnect, the continuing challenges posed by ,MTN and OneTouch to mutually provision circuits in a timely manner to match the growing traffic between them, and respond to faulty circuits has contributed to the less than desirable quality of service, as well.’ The two companies now have until 19 October to resolve their interconnect issues. Failure to do so would result in an audit from the NCA with the appropriate sanctions on the offending party to follow. The NCA has also directed MTN and GT-OneTouch to stop signing up new accounts until their networks are able to cope with the additional capacity.

Ghana Telecom has expressed ‘shock and disappointment’ at the NCA’s directive. In a hastily released statement it rejected the NCA’s assessment, saying: ‘OneTouch is not in violation of the key performance indicators that govern its operations.’ Nonetheless, the timing of the regulator’s directive is bad for the company given it is currently undergoing due diligence concerning the sale of a 51% stake to a strategic investor (see separate story). For its part, MTN, which operates under the name Spacefon Areeba, has agreed to stop selling starter packs to customers and says it is keen to work with the regulator to allay its fears.