The National Communications Authority (NCA) is working with telecommunications companies in Ghana to roll out a national roaming service, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications, has said. She said it just one measure to extend voice and data services to all unserved and underserved rural communities in the country.
“Just as roaming outside the country is possible, so it is internally, and therefore some conscious efforts are under way to make it a reality soon,” Owusu-Ekuful said, in an interview with the Business and Financial Times. “The move will augment government efforts at ensuring good telecommunication services across the country.”
She added: “We want to promote national roaming so that if you go somewhere where your network doesn’t operate, but another network is there, you will automatically roam on the other network and get the services and be able to receive and make calls and use data. This will prevent the carrying of multiple devices just so you communicate clearly at different locations in the country.
“This is the same as travelling abroad and using your own network there because you are roaming. So, we want to promote national roaming as well. It is part of the conversation we are having with the operators and we would want it done,” she said.
New way of life
Owusu-Ekuful said COVID-19 has changed ways of doing everything. Education, religion, work and entertainment are among a host of needs which have moved online and people living in rural areas need not be excluded from benefiting from this.
The minister said the move is necessary to facilitate e-education, e-health, e-commerce, trade and digital financial services in rural communities, as a means to open up the country and expedite economic growth.
“Without connectivity, we can’t do that, and it is not right that it is only in the big cities and district capitals that we have data and voice connectivity,” she said.
“As a government, we believe that everybody should be connected and we want to send connectivity to all parts of the country.”
Funding for expansion
Already, the government has secured funding for Ghana Investment for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) to roll out the construction of about 2,000 sites under its rural telephony project. Each site will connect roughly 500 people in each community, which suggests that several millions of people will be connected to the data and voice services when the project is launched.
Telephone connections in rural communities can be terrible, sometimes to the extent of obliging people to climb trees just to be able to make a phone call.
The telecommunications companies or mobile network operators (MNOs) that ought to step in to extend coverage by mounting masts in these areas refuse to do so. This is especially the case for communities with populations below 1,000, because of certain commercial and economic considerations.
The national roaming service will allow telecoms service users automatically to switch to the strongest network available, regardless of the service provider used, especially when the home network is unavailable or very unstable.
This will also ensure that customers of mobile communications automatically make and receive telephone calls, send and receive data, and can access other services while travelling outside the geographical coverage areas of the home network, by means of a network run by another operator.