Last week's conference by Ghana's internet providers association GISPA revealed that the operators have been negotiating with Ghana Telecom for SAT3 capacity collectively but still feel they are unable to get a fair price, writes Eric Osiakwan and Russell Southwood.

Nana Yaa Owusu-Prempeh, President, GISPA told the press conference:"We would also like to announce our current negotiating with Ghana Telecom to purchase bulk bandwidth on the SAT 3 undersea cable. The bulk purchase of bandwidth would in the long term reflect in the cost of Internet to the consumer. The Ministry of Communication and Technology has been instrumental in this current negotiation process and facilitation of dialogue between the various operators".

This new, more conciliatory relationship between the ISPs and Ghana Telecom seems to date from the middle of last year when the Ministry appointed Kwesi Adu-Gyan and Kwaku Nsiah as Special Advisers to the Minister. According to one insider, "they seem to have championed the idea of sitting around the table to talk among the operators".

However negotiation there may be, agreement there is not. For as Owusu-Prempeh told the press conference:"With respect to the bulk bandwidth purchase, it is unfortunate that Ghana Telecom has since the establishment of the SAT3 undersea cable priced access way beyond the market. For example a half E1 circuit cost USD3,500 on the international market but Ghana Telecom sells the same for USD10,000 to local ISPs. How then can the ISPs make Internet affordable? Our current negotiation is aimed at reducing this cost drastically so the ISPs can purchase the bandwidth in bulk under GISPA. Though this process has being slow we hope that Ghana Telecom would be more proactive since this is an option that would optimize their capacity on the SAT 3 undersea cable".

She also pointed to the largely unused Voltacom fibre that is unused for the same reason:"It is important for us to note that the high cost of access on the Voltacom inland fiber is the major reason why that facility has also been under utilized by the Internet industry".