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NCA advises Expresso customers to weigh options

The National Communication Authority (NCA) has advised customers of Expresso to consider alternative network providers, as the impasse between Expresso and other mobile phone network operators drags on.

Without being explicit, the NCA has advised the consuming public to be mindful of the prevailing situation and make informed decisions on the purchase of goods and services from Expresso.

For the past two weeks, customers of Expresso have been experiencing difficulties in making calls to and from other networks — particularly MTN, following its business decision to impose a one-way block from the Expresso network to its platform.

According to the NCA — the telecoms regulator — while the Authority has taken steps to mediate in the present crisis situation, customers of Expresso must be informed of the true state of affairs which may have an impact on their service usage and report their issues to the nearest Expresso office for redress.

“In addition, Expresso consumers are being reminded that they can make use of the Mobile Number Portability platform to change to another provider while keeping their number if they so wish,” it said.

The NCA said it is still monitoring the situation and will take appropriate action after a comprehensive review of the situation.

Since the beginning of this year, Expresso has been encountering operational difficulties; and this includes inability to meet some of its financial obligations, culminating in the network’s failure to meet all of its obligations under the Interconnect Agreement with MTN.

The NCA contends it has for some time made consistent and intensive efforts to help Expresso address its difficulties by managing various crisis situations, and to ensure that the network is able to meet all its obligations — most especially to its customers.

However, the situation has reached boiling point, with MTN — the largest network operator — taking steps to sever its relationship with Expresso until all of its outstanding interconnection fees have been honoured.

Currently, Ghana boasts six mobile telephony operators — with Expresso Ghana considered the smallest and least profitable network provider, having a voice subscription base of 123,825 in a market of more than 26.5 million people.

In terms of data, the company controls just about 0.25% with 36,135 subscribers.

As mobile subscription reaches almost 30 million, the mobile voice market is gradually reaching a saturation point with the Average Revenue Per User declining.

According to industry analysts — including officials of the National Communication Authority, the expectation is that a couple of the telecoms operators will consolidate their operations within the next few years as there is uncertainty over their business profitability.

Several attempts by a number of businesses to acquire Expresso have fallen through, with the Jospong Group coming close.

Earlier this year, however, Sudanese telecom operator Sudatel Group, which owned a 75% stake in Expresso Ghana, announced that it had sold off its stake after continually recording losses in its Ghana operations.

The company reported in its half-year results for the year that despite cutting its losses in Expresso Ghana, it has opted to pull out of Ghana by selling its shares to a new buyer — which it failed to name.

Sudatel entered into the Ghanaian telecom industry by buying into the erstwhile Kasapa Telecom. The Sudanese firm has recognised that its foray into the Ghanaian telecom space has largely been unimpressive, with the performance of its West-Africa operations in Ghana being its biggest loss-making venture.

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