A lot, says consultant
One of the key sectors to Ghana's development, Ghana Telecom, is now under new management. There is great expectation that the new people at the helm of affairs would do better than their predecessors. In a frank write up, a consultant to the company has issued the current disposition of GT and says things would improve soon.
It is not uncommon for an ordinary telephone user to pick up a telephone, dial a number and get a busy tone before the last digit is even dialed, or experience a delay in getting a dial tone. These together with a myriad of problems exist for Ghana Telecom subscribers daily and are a consequence of a certain action or inaction in Ghana's communication decisions.
The evolution, organization and management of a telephone network has a spacio-temporal dimension. Decisions taken in the past regarding say the physical location of exchanges, ducts for the placement of telephone cables, the type of switches acquired etc, have a significant impact on what happens today and what will happen tomorrow to our telephone system. For instance about twenty years ago, the main medium for the transmission network connection in the telephone system was copper wire (it still remains the same for access network) Extensive trenches were dug to burry armoured copper cables. Today with advancement in optical communications, the optical fibre has been introduced into telecommunications with awesome properties. If the ducting that was done in the past did not foresee the possibility to make provision for the installation of other media like optical fibre then we will face financial and design problems today.
Ghana Telecom's "problems balance sheet" will be presented here in view of the entry of a new investor. Most of the problems are transient in nature and will be cleared alongside the implementation of new Policies.
Ghana Telecom's fixed network has over sixty (60) switches countrywide supplied or bought from India, Japan, Sweden, France and other sources. In between these countries, several models of switches have been procured through different means such as vendors financing and installed countrywide: Alcatel, NEC AT&T, Ericsson and others. Though good intentioned, this policy has left in its trail a lot of problems like training of technical staff, lack of support agreement in some cases, technical issues like tuning and matching the various parts of he equipment. In cases where there is no support agreement it takes a while to rectify problems with the associated exchange leading to delays in restoring services after a major breakdown.
A telephone call passes through several stages (cables, switches, repeaters) before reaching its destination. One critical situation at Ghana Telecom today is that certain calls are routed through places they should not necessarily pass. This situation leads to congestion and so calls (local, international, or mobile) could be blocked. It is worthwhile stating here that for fixed to mobile calls other factors like tariffs come in to play.
Relationship with other operators
This characteristically irritating busy tone or "all circuits to the area you have called are busy" one experiences when a fixed to mobile call is made is a consequence of several problems associated with the interconnection between Ghana Telecom and the other service providers. One of the main sticking issues concerning tariffs is currently being sorted out with the NCA.
Ghana Telecom today appears to be ten separate companies in one. Equipment for a centralized overview of operations and maintenance have not been installed, thus monitoring, reporting and solving software associated problems take a while.
The ONE TOUCH mobile system started very well but the services have degraded steadily. The system is currently so congested and technically needs tuning. Works in decongestion by way of installing additional mobile equipment and tuning are currently underway and relief is expected somewhere in June. SMS communication, international roaming and other features are currently unavailable on the system and will be available shortly.
Out of the total number of payphones installed a higher percentage id out of order. This has been due mainly to the lack of spare parts. In some other cases, the lines to these payphones have been withdrawn and used for other activities. Vandalism cannot also be ruled out.
The Ghana Telecom Training School at Tesano is one of the assets of the company. Training equipment and gadgets are lacking to produce fully baked technicians for Ghana Telecom and the telecommunication industry in Ghana and the sub region as a whole.
For so many reasons, Ghana Telecom has not been earning the money it should and it has not had access to long term financing yet. The liquidity of the company has deteriorated in the last few years and it could have been bankrupt in a few years time. Good auditing by the new management and access to additional financing should smooth some rough edges.