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Ghana plans to relax telecom licensing rules to lower data costs

Ghana currently sells licenses that are spectrum-specific.
Image: Nicholas Seun, Bloomberg

Ghana plans to broaden the scope of its telecommunications licenses so mobile operators can have more spectrum available for internet use, lowering data costs for consumers.

Ghana currently sells licenses that are spectrum-specific “and the technology is tied to the spectrum that you can use,” said Communications Minister-Designate Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who took questions from lawmakers Monday as part of her reappointment process.

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After the change, it won’t “matter whether its 2G, 3G or 4G spectrum that you have, you can use whatever available technology there is on (your available spectrum) to deliver the service that you want,” she said, referring to the technologies used for voice calls and Internet services.

The West African nation’s move follows an industry push to get more governments to make spectrum licenses technology- and service-neutral so mobile operators can be flexible, without paying high charges to change the use of their spectrum.

Ghana gave operators free spectrum and reduced its communication service tax to 5% to bring down data prices amid coronavirus-related lockdowns. Lower costs will lead to more usage, “so, on economies of scale, the companies will not lose out,” Owusu-Ekuful said.

The country’s telecommunication market is dominated by a unit of Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd., a subsidiary of Vodafone Group Plc, and AirtelTigo, which Ghana has agreed to buy. Discussions for the transfer of the company, owned by a joint venture between Airtel and Millicom, are ongoing, she said.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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