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Elephant in the room: Telecom industry collapsing under this NCA? – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, it was argued that the NCA’s efforts to clarify what SMP is not intended to do, two years after its implementation, show that it is aware of the public’s worries regarding the fate of other operators in the industry under its supervision and the worry that MTN might experience the same fate.

In order to reassure the public that this won’t happen, they posted on Twitter. This second section of the story discusses how the BWAs disintegrated under the NCA’s watch, Glo stopped doing business, and Vodafone departed the market.


Moving on, the second-largest participant, Vodafone Ghana, started to complain loudly and bluntly about NCA’s failure to regulate the market to guarantee a level playing field and the industry’s sustainability.

They were concerned that NCA was more focused on collecting money through penalties, license sales, and other forms of revenue and did very little to effectively oversee the sector in order to ensure its long-term viability. Successive CEOs and even other Vodafone Ghana officials were forthright in their assessments of the NCA’s shortcomings.

In fact, NCA was referred to be a revenue collector rather than a regulator at Vodafone.

For instance, the slot in the 800MHz spectrum band was issued by NCA at the appropriate time. The NCA won’t bend since at the time, the goal was to raise money for the government to meet the timeframe for the deployment of a Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) rollout. The whole industry, including even MTN, grumbled about it.

Finally, only MTN could afford the spectrum, and the others were just denied the chance to use it. It was missed that the deadline was

Years later, Vodafone was able to enter the market, but it could only afford to purchase a 2x5MHz slot in the 800MHz band for US$20 million, which was only half of what MTN had. Later, Vodafone was able to get a second 2x5MHz slot, increasing their 4G spectrum holding to 2x10MHz, but it was already too late.

NCA built the Monster known as MTN.

By allowing MTN to acquire Goldkey Telecom, one of the BWA license holders, NCA made matters worse. MTN thus acquired more spectrum lots in the 2600MHz band valued at US$6 million, giving it a competitive edge over the rest of the market.

In contrast, 
Glo didn’t and still don’t have that Goldkey.

All of this occurred while NCA was still holding onto a study that said MTN was already a substantial market power. Therefore, it is unclear if NCA was interested in regulating the business for growth or simply in profiting from it. In the name of profit-seeking rather than responsible regulation, NCA is the one who spawned the monstrous MTN.

Be aware that no one can hold MTN—or any other company in the market, for that matter—responsible for pursuing tactics and resources that will provide it an advantage over rivals. MTN and any other participants will always take advantage of the resources the regulator makes available or permits. The regulator must know what to permit, what to prohibit, when, how, and to whom.

Recall that Vodafone acquired 70% of Ghana Telecom for a substantial US$900 million, with the Ghanaian government holding the other 30%. However, the government never provided any funding for Vodafone Ghana’s capital expenses and did not even help the company obtain licenses from the NCA.

In other words, after managing to exist for a while, Vodafone has likewise left the market and transferred its shares to Telecel in a fairly intriguing agreement. Including license payments that Vodafone owed to NCA, Telecel was faced with a debt of around $150 million when they took over.

Before ultimately receiving consent to purchase the Vodafone shares, Telecel had to pay around US$10 million of that debt to NCA. So, if the government is unable to pay the US$10 million licensing fees, what are the 30% state shares in Vodafone worth?


Even though Glo’s license is still valid, it no longer operates and has transferred all of its 800,000 customers to AirtelTigo (now AT). Regarding what happens to the Glo license, which is no longer needed, NCA withholds all information from us.

As per usual, we learned from our extremely reliable sources that Glo obtained that license in shady circumstances and took two years to launch a network.

When they did, they asserted that they had installed towers across over 90% of the nation, and they assured Ghanaians that everything would be better than ever before—including entertainment, delights, juicy offers, and voice and data network quality. They began with more than 1.75 million customers as a result of such pledges, sending chills down the spines of its rivals.

Glo was given a free pass by NCA to terminate traffic on other networks as a new entrant without having to pay interconnect fees. This was done to increase Glo’s penetration. However, the market soon became too hot for them, and they quickly began to decline.

At least six times in just two years, Glo changed the Ghana Head of Business (the equivalent of the country’s CEO), but nothing changed until last year, when they switched their clients to AT and shut down.

Since then, Glo towers have been collapsing and damaging people’s homes around the nation. NCA is passively observing everything that is happening, not intervening or speaking—at least not in public—anything.


All of Ghana’s leading  and they had to sell to MTN under the supervision of this NCA. The CEO of Goldkey reportedly claimed that his $6 million 4G license was the most expensive piece of paper he had ever owned.

Up until recently, when we learned MTN had purchased it, no one even knew what had happened to Blu Telecoms’ license. Additionally, Broadband Home (BBH), formerly Zipnet, has no subscribers according to NCA’s own subscriber base reports.

Even the reason NCA maintains reporting such is beyond me. However, MTN recently acquired their spectrum as well. For a while, Surfline and Busy Internet were able to stay solvent, but recently their partial death was brought on by their debt to a tower firm, specifically ATC Ghana.

NCA is currently seeking opinions from the public on how to address this circumstance. What a loss. Perhaps they ought to have sold to MTN as well?

Local content and tower co-location

The tower co-location policy, which gave rise to independent tower firms like ATC Ghana and Helios Towers, is entirely the responsibility of NCA. The goal of the program was to encourage operators to co-locate on towers owned by independent towercos like ATC Ghana, Helios, and K-Net rather than incurring the expense of dispersing their own towers around the nation.

But later, the smaller operators found it difficult to pay the tower fees, partly as a result of NCA’s own carelessness and/or purposeful anti-competitive measures that had reduced their value.

Let me give you an example. When MTN was released by NCA, it flooded the local gamers were permitted in that area for a valid cause, which is known as Local Content.

The government made the decision to adopt a protectionist attitude with BWA still control the whole industry.

However, the NCA was only able to grant three years since, as was already mentioned, the government needed money to implement the DTT strategy and the sale of spectrum was considered as the only available option.

In that case, funding for the installation of DTT was more important to the industry than considering the NCA. Saying “To hell with local content – to hell with BWAs” was the equivalent.

It was inevitable that MTN would become successful with their 
In an effort to generate some revenue and stay afloat, the leading BWA, Surfline, eventually received authorisation to collaborate with Vodafone to launch at least one product, Smart Surf, on their 4G network. However, it was too late.

In order to generate revenue, settle debt, and maintain their business, Surfline has also been attempting to join with MTN to expand out nationally. However, the government has resisted this cooperation for a highly contradictory reason.

The same government permitted Goldkey’s to be acquired by MTN.would strengthen MTN’s hegemony even more.

It sounds as though MTN wasn’t already the market leader when it received NCA approval to purchase Goldkey’s spectrum in 2019. MTN unexpectedly became a dominating participant in 2020, and now that Surfline now depends on MTN to thrive, MTN can no longer be granted any additional advantages. Laughable.

Moving an ecosystem forward

At the launch of MTN Ghana’s 25th anniversary, Minister of Communications and Digitalization Ursula Owusu-Ekuful gave a speech.

Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Communications Minister, requested MTN to use its SMP status to push the entire ecosystem down the path of growth at the launch of MTN’s 25th anniversary in June 2021.

What could be a better illustration of driving the ecosystem toward growth than joining forces with an operator who is obviously having problems in a mutually beneficial arrangement that promises, most significantly, to prevent the smaller player from collapsing?

Every step of the way, NCA was fully aware of the plight of Surfline and the Busy Internet. ATC Ghana kept NCA completely up to date on all aspects of its interactions with the two organizations. In order for the two to receive some relief, NCA actually had to step in on a number of instances, which is fantastic.

However, NCA has the option of pursuing different resolutions for the two if it so desired, particularly for Surfline and the request to collaborate with MTN. That most likely would have produced a different tale today. However, NCA has let Surfline and Busy Ghana to enter a state of unconsciousness in order to—wait, for what—harvest their dominance over the spectrum.

Therefore, it raises the nagging concern that a regulator acting under the authority of a government may be seeking to eliminate the only remaining player in the industry. This is especially true in light of some of the things we have started to observe regarding the implementation of the SMP regulations and its effects on consumers who are supposed to be protected.

You can see why Ghanaians have the nagging suspicion that there are attempts being made to “punish or stifle MTN’s operations” when you contrast that with the recent shameful action taken by another regulator, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), which involved using a rogue entity called Safaritech Ghana Limited to conduct some “voodoo” tax audit on MTN and claim that MTN owed a staggering GHS8.2 billion in back taxes.
Allow me to rest here.

Boanerges Amoako
Boanerges Amoako
I am Boanerges Amoako, a multifaceted visionary excelling in blogging, social media influence, content creation, online marketing, news publishing, and a deep love for all things tech. Join me on a captivating journey through creativity, influence, reliability, and endless possibilities!


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