Sunyani (B/A) Aug. 31 GNA - Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of Communications, on Monday said plans were underway to enable cell phone users in West Africa to receive and make instant calls to and from any Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member.
He said at the launch of Mobitel/BUZZ GSM Service in Sunyani that the decision to improve cell phone communications in the West Africa Sub-Region was taken at a recent meeting in Lome, Togo, by ECOWAS Ministers of Communications.
The Communications Minister said the meeting considered a "GSM Roaming Model", after examining recommendations submitted by a team of experts, policy makers, operators, regulators and consumers. "The technologically sound option will serve as a launching pad for an integrated and harmonized market not only in terms of telecommunications but other sectors of the economy", he said. Mr Dapaah said it was for this reason that the launch of Mobitel/Buzz GSM Service in Sunyani, "which incidentally is the last regional administrative capital to be covered, is even more significant".
He stressed that the strong partnership Government was establishing with the Private Sector was yielding dividends and the example of the telecommunications sector demonstrated that with the right enabling environment, the private sector could contribute its quota towards the socio-economic development of the country.
Mr Kan-Dapaah said at the end of 2000, telephone network in Ghana stood at 200,000 fixed lines after more than 50 years of telephony in the country and about 250,000 cellular subscriptions.
"Today, the network comprises 370,000 fixed lines and close to a million mobile phones", he said, adding that the figure had witnessed a positive growth in industry by 5.1 per cent last year compared to 4.7 per cent in 2002.
The Communications Minister said the main challenge for Ghana was not so much to develop a licensing strategy to attract new operators, as was the case for many African countries, noting that the challenge was to maximize the potential of the existing market structure and to put in place a strong policy and regulatory environment that would encourage existing players to intensify the level of competition and rollout of services.
Mr Kan-Dapaah said five cell phone companies had been licensed with four of them - Mobitel, Spacefon, One Touch and Kasapa - in active operation, adding that such competition made it imperative for players in the industry to lead to lower charges and commended Mobitel for offering the lowest GSM call charges.
The Minister mentioned the proliferation of communications services linking mobile phones of the same network or others in a faster and at a comparatively lower cost, popularly referred to as "mobile-to-mobile" businesses.
He called for closer monitoring and supervision of these retail outlets by the respective service providers.
"The operations of these wayside telephone businesses as well as the other communications centres have to be done with due regard to the rules of the sector to avoid public criticism", he cautioned. Nana Kwadwo Seinti, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, said the launch in Sunyani would also benefit operators in Techiman in the region and Tepa in Ashanti.
He expressed satisfaction that Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of Mobitel GSM and Buzz GSM, had recognized Brong-Ahafo as a potential market of cellular phone services.
"The presence of Millicom Ghana Limited in the Region will generate competition among mobile phone service providers and also give people in the Region the right to choose which service to subscribe to with respect to cost, reliability and efficiency", he said.
Nana Seinti expressed the hope that the people would support and patronise the service to ensure that the Company achieved the projected growth rate required to maintain its leadership role in the cellular phone industry.
Present at the launch were Major John Ray Kwabena Tandoh (rtd), Acting Director General and Chief Executive Officer, National Communications Authority; Mr Tismark Inja, Chairman and Mr Soban Pasha, Managing Director, both of Mobitel GSM.