Telcos do not want to co-locate – Minister
The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu has said one of the effective ways for telecom operators to cut down on their operational cost was to co-locate their antennae on common towers, but the telcos were not willing to co-locate.
The Minister was speaking at the opening of the Second MobileWorld Ghana Telecom Awards, put together by Instinct Wave Limited, publishers of MobileWorld Magazine, under the theme “Consolidating the Growth in the ICT Industry.”
He made the remark during a discussion on installation of infrastructure to deliver affordable and reliable broadband across country.
Telecom operators have recently being expressing concerns about rising operational expenditure (OPEX) and dwindling revenues even though subscriber base keeps rising.
They have cited heavy arbitrary charges, levies, and fees that the MMDAs placed on every little infrastructure telcos installed to provide quality service, vis-à-vis the consistent fall in tariffs, as other utility costs go up.
But the Minister of Communications noted that whereas the telcos may be justified in seeking some reduction in those numerous charges by the MMDAs, they (the telcos) were also not entirely honest about the burden those charges placed on them.
He explained that in many of the cases, those relatively huge figures the telcos quoted as being month charges, were actually fees that covered a number of years.
Mr. Haruna Iddrisu also said government had for years been pushing the telcos to co-locate their antennae on common towers to reduce the public anxiety about health and safety created by the towers.
“The other benefit is that when they co-locate they save cost but the telcos are not co-operating because they are suspicious of each other,” he said.
He noted that ironically, each telco contributed one per cent of their profits into the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) to provide towers on which they could co-locate their antennae, particularly in the un-served and under-served communities, but the telcos were not using those towers optimally.
This confirmed similar sentiment by a board member of GIFEC, Mike Awuah that other institutions and individual businesses tended to use GIFEC towers more than the telcos did.
Mr. Haruna Iddrisu repeated an earlier promise that government would give incentives to telcos who would extend voice and broadband services to the un-served and under-served areas, but that would mean the telcos would have to co-locate because expected revenue from those areas is not enough to justify the heavy investment without co-location.
Meanwhile, contrary to the minister's claim, CEO's of some independent tower companies, who attended the summit, told journalists the telcos were actually increasingly co-locating.
Helios Towers Ghana CEO Rein Zwolsman said telcos have co-located their antennae on 600 of its 750 towers across country, while Eaton Towers Ghana Boss Terry Rhodes also said more than half of its 750 towers are co-located towers.
Both the Helios and Eaton bosses said they were working to make get all of their towers to be co-location towers to help telcos cut down on cost. Terry Rhodes said Eaton was also in the process of constructing additional towers.
Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GCT) CEO, Kwaku Sakyi Addo said telcos were committed to co-location, and they were even co-locating their underground fibre and not just antennae.
“The challenge however is that when you co-locate fibre and there is one cut it affects more than just one operator,” he said.
Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Consultant at the National Communication Authority (NCA), Bob Palitz said whereas co-location was desirable, it was not always possible because each operator's frequency may be different and that could lead to interferences of signals when the antennae were co-located.
He also explained that radiation emanated from the antennae and not the towers, so if the purpose of co-location was to reduce the public anxiety about radiation, “then co-location is not the answer because the more antennae on one tower, the higher the radiation.”
The summit was sponsored by Helios Towers and ATC Towers and was attended by about 100 participants from all the major industry players, as well as regulator organizations and government institutions.