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08.03.2005 Business & Finance

GT To Be Broken Up?

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Undeniably the nation's main telecom service provider, Ghana Telecom (gt.) has seen a lot of progress in the last three years. It has moved dramatically from a loss-making company to a profitable one.

Far-reaching technical and managerial innovations have taken place and continue to take place, and have impacted on public perception leading to a change in the negative image they have about the company.

Switching capacity of fixed network has been expanded and improvements in the transmission network have made placing calls much easier. Public Payphones have been given a numeric and qualitative boost. A lot more is expected this year with the Alcatel-Shangai-Bell deal in progress. Representatives of Alcatel-Shangai-Bell visited Ghana recently and met with President Kufour.

The Onetouch network has increased its subscriber base with an almost complete national coverage. By the end of the current rollout, it could easily emerge as the premier telco in Ghana. However all is not quiet on the Ghana Telecom front. Gt. may soon suffer a breakup.

A murky team of "experts" are said to be pushing for a break up of the company into several units. They are looking at the American experience in which AT&T (MaBell), which was the dominant player in this huge market, was broken down into several companies.

When asked about the national backbone network for ICT during his vetting, the Minister of Communications hinted at grabbing Ghana Telecom's infrastructure. Is that part of the breakdown? This answer has brought unease into the company but joy to those who think they can grab a piece of the action and run! However other experts in the ICT sector think that this option is not viable and could lead to chaos.

One possibility, they opine, could be the disengagement of the Onetouch Mobile service from the fixed network service.

This has both technical as well as management advantages. A strategic investor could then be found to partner Ghana Telecom for the Onetouch while the fixed network is floated on the Ghana Stock Exchange for Ghanaians to buy shares and raise the necessary capital to improve service delivery.

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