WESTEL RECEIVES LICENCE TO OPERATE MOBILE SERVICE IN GHANA

Telecoms

The Ghanaian daily newspaper Graphic Ghana reports that Western Telesystems (WESTEL) Ghana Limited has been granted a licence by the regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), to operate a mobile service in the country. The award brings the number of companies licensed to provide mobile telephony services in Ghana to five. WESTEL is the second state-owned company – the other being Ghana Telecom – to receive a wireless concession. WESTEL was awarded the second national operator's licence in 1997 and granted a five-year duopoly on basic telecoms services alongside incumbent Ghana Telecom. However, it has been blighted by bureaucratic disagreements and a lack of investment, and has since not been able to meet its targets of rolling out up to 100,000 fixed lines across the country.

The granting of a mobile licence to Westel – if the report turns out to be accurate – is almost certainly a Government strategy to fatten up Westel before it is privatised. MTN has shown interest in Westel in the past but the absence of a mobile licence would almost certainly have been a stumbling block.

At the last count in June 2006 the number of mobile subscribers stood at over 3.34 million, up from around 2.65 million at the start of the year and a rise of 82.8% on the 1.45 million recorded at the end of 2004. By 1 July 2006 GSM operator Spacefon Areeba, backed by Lebanon-based Investcom Holdings, had 2.02 million subscribers, putting it ahead of Millicom International Cellular's (MIC's) Mobitel unit, the oldest of all the providers, which had 737,749 users to its Tigo-branded service. State-owned national PTO Ghana Telecom (GT) had an estimated 450,000 subscribers to its GT-OneTouch GSM network, while Kasapa Telecom, the country's sole CDMA operator, had around 135,300, up from 57,100 at the start of the year.

Telegeography