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Ghana preps for telco tower management overhaul

Ghana , 22 Sep 2020

Ghana has initiated its one-month public consultation for input on revised guidelines for the deployment of telecommunications towers.

According to the National Communications Authority (NCA), the review will include emerging industry standards and procedures for the installation of communication towers, facilitate the development of infrastructure to enhance the delivery of quality service and address environmental issues.

Aspects of the former guidelines to be revised include changes to the specified radius for the construction of a new tower from 400m of the proposed site to 300m (if in a built-up area) and 200m if not, as well as the waiting time to secure a permit from all coordinating agencies adjusted to 90-days.

There is a new clause that forbids any sanction being applied to a sited tower that is compliant with the stipulated location requirements of the guidelines but compromised by electricity providers.

As part of requirements for co-location, operators will now consult with the NCA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as collaborate with them to negotiate co-location-related issues such as site access, security access, rates and compensation.

Tower owners will also have to provide information about towers that are available for co-location to the NCA, EPA and Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies on an annual basis so as to maintain a database.

Infrastructure sharing is meant to prevent network tower investment duplication in single locations but it has not been effective in Ghana as the NCA had expected, according to a study presented in a telecom conference paper by Alexander Osei-Owusu and Anders Henten in 2017.

At the time the authors claimed approximately 40% of tower sites in cities like Accra and Kumasi had one co-locator, despite more co-location arrangements expected of them.

They added that because of the nature of tower agreements and sales, MNOs involved were compelled to serve in the role of ‘anchor tenants on commercial terms’ which created ‘market misconduct’ and a situation in which tower companies were not independent.

They pinpointed MTN’s working relationship with the American Tower Company (prior to the January 2020 agreement to acquire MTN’s 49% stake in Ghana and Uganda operations valued at about US$523-million) as giving the telco the upper hand in decisions affecting competitors, including pricing of infrastructure that favoured MTN and helped the company maintain its dominance.

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