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15.02.2007 Business & Finance

Ghana Tops In Phone Subscription

Ghana recorded the fastest teledensity growth rate in Africa last year, recording up to 22 per cent increase, as against the projected rate of 10 per cent by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The teledensity rate, which is the number of telephone subscribers as a percentage of the population, was the result of the drastic increase in the number of subscribers, including the provision of payphones, from 3,756,518 as of the end of the first quarter of 2006 to 5,581,409 by the last quarter of the same year.

The Director-General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), Major J.R.K. Tandoh (retd), who disclosed this in an interview in Accra yesterday, said the dramatic progress in the sector painted a promising picture for the country's telecommunications sector in the next 50 years.

Comparing 2001 and 2006, he said, "What is more interesting is the fact that the number of telephone subscribers in the country for both fixed and mobile has shot up drastically from a little over 500,000 in 2001 to 5,581,409 as of the end of 2006.”

Scancom Ghana Limited, operators of Areeba GSM network, maintained the lead in the mobile telephony sector, having increased its subscriber base from 2,398,521 as of the end of the third quarter of 2006 to 2,585,467 by the end of December 31, 2006.

During the same period under review, Milicom Ghana Limited, operators of tiGO GSM and Mobitel analogue services, increased its subscribers from 1,234,150 to 1,546,721, while those of Ghana Telecom, operators of Onetouch GSM, increased from 774,885 to 877,106.

Kasapa Telecom, which operates the Kasapa branded network, on the other hand, increased its subscribers marginally from 172,810 to 200,104 between the third and fourth quarters of 2006.

For fixed telephone lines, Ghana Telecom increased its subscriber base from 351,557 to 357,557 between September and December 2006 but it was unable to add any more payphones and, therefore, maintained the figure of 11,364.

Western Telesystems (WESTEL), which has been struggling to make an impact in the sector since it was granted a licence to operate a fixed line service in the country about seven years ago, kept its subscriber base at 2,798 during the same period under review.

Although the company received another licence to operate a GSM mobile service in the last quarter of last year, it is yet to roll out its service.

Major Tandoh attributed the growth to the strict but conducive regulatory environment, backed by a sound economic environment.

On the quality of service, which has been the main source of concern to subscribers over the last few years, he said, "Our improved collaboration with the operators and the strict checks on their systems have improved the quality of service and although it is still not the best, a major head way has been made."

He said the authority held monthly meetings with the operators and that had offered the opportunity to enhance interactions between the two parties "because through these meetings we get to know their difficulties and assist them accordingly".

Story by Charles Benoni Okine