The impasse between Ghana Telecom and Spacefon over interconnectivity rates took another twist last week when the latter accused GT of misleading the public with wrong information Addressing a press conference in Accra, the Managing Director of Spacefon, Ahmad Farroukh, said GT wanted to increase its service charges, but instead of explaining to the public the factors that have necessitated the increase, it rather sought to put the blame of its past and future losses on mobile phone operators and the National Communication Authority (NCA).

He said for the past three months, GT management has sought to deceive the public through the media by presenting wrong information, and only last week incited GT union workers, who threatened to take the unlawful action of suppressing traffic flow from GT to Spacefon network.

Mr. Farroukh said according to international standards and NCA regulations, interconnectivity between networks was a must, as it was the essential right of the consumer to make and receive calls to and from any network. He said, " It is very important to understand that the cost per minute for a mobile subscriber is far higher than that of a fixed one because of the different technology and the amount of capital expenditure involved in operating them.

The MD accused GT of intentionally twisting the facts about the traffic imbalance between GT and mobile operators "to portray the picture of a company that is bleeding operationally and financially" from the low payment of rates of mobile operators, in order to win public sympathy while covering up its inefficiency.

He debunked the claim by GT workers that the company paid over 90 billion as a result of traffic imbalance, pointing out that, " more than 50% of the calls coming from GT to the mobile operators were of international incoming origin, on which GT derives 0.10cents for every minute, therefore by its own calculations GT will generate 100 billion over the same period from national and international usage of its network.

Therefore Spacefon should be excluded from any ratio because it is only GT and Westel, which have the international operational gateways.

Besides that, "ONE TOUCH" which is GT’s mobile network had the second largest network after Spacefon in terms of customer base, and because it did not have interconnection problems with GT fixed lines, about 25% of national traffic went to One Touch, which meant that 25% of the 140,625,000 minutes that GT terminates on the Mobile were terminated on its own One Touch, and the remaining 105,468,750 was what was terminated on mobile operators.

On the issue of tariffs imbalance, the MD said Spacefon operated on the same GSM technology as One Touch, therefore theoretically, the costs should be the same or there should not be a very big difference.

He stressed that it was very important to compare the charges of One Touch and Spacefon per minute to a GT fixed line, saying whilst Spacefon charged ¢2,800 as was correctly quoted, One Touch charged ¢3,850, an excess of over ¢1000.

Mr. Farroukh observed that as per NCA regulations, operators should agree on interconnection rates between themselves. Consequently, all mobile operators met with GT and the NCA on June 26 2003 and agreed on new inter -connection fees.

Another meeting was held in August, at which it was agreed that the effective date for the new inter- connection rates was to be effected on September 1, 2003, yet to his surprise GT out of the blue, started a sequence of events that have compelled Spacefon to come out with the facts.

Liquid Africa