Minister for Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has lauded MTN Ghana for taking the risk to pioneer several telecom industry innovations over the last 25 years, while other industry players sat by and looked on.
Speaking at the launch of the 25th Anniversary of MTN Ghana, the Minister, who was herself a one time industry person, stated “It [telecoms] is a capital intensive industry and you have invested well. You’ve taken risks and pioneered a lot of innovations when others have hesitated.”
She recalled how MTN first introduced GSM into Ghana, saying that MTN’s immense contribution to the evolution of the telecom industry in Ghana cannot be overemphasized.
Indeed, MTN went on to introduce many industry firsts, including SMS, 2G, 3G, Mobile Money, 4G and others.
“You have done well in your business and you have been deliberate to delivering on your mandate to the best of your ability. As a result ‘Hello’ has become ‘Y’ello’ or is becoming ‘Y’ello’,” the Minister said.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful noted that the risks MTN took have paid off, having started from a “distant third” in 1996, when they first entered the market, to now becoming the runaway market leader.
Till date, MTN has invested a whopping US$6 billion in Ghana’s telecoms industry, and it now has over 25 million subscribers, representing more than 60% voice market share, plus over 72% mobile data market share and an equally huge percentage of mobile money market share.
In June last year, MTN Ghana, which has for many years held more than 40 per cent market share, was declared a significant market power (SMP), which is a mechanism to ensure regulatory intervention to correct the imbalance in the industry.
At the time MTN was declare SMP, the government said it held about 75% telecoms market share and 75% of all telecom industry revenue. It was also reported that about 70% of all phone calls in the country terminated on MTN and they equally held an overwhelming chunk of the mobile money market.
Per the Minister’s submission, MTN got to that height via strategic investment, commitment to the Ghanaian market and regular risk taking, while other industry players were hesitant to do same.
Indeed, one industry player claim to own the blueprint of mobile money; but, as the Minister observed, that player sat by and watched as MTN kept investing in mobile money and losing money for the first six years.
Since MTN was declared SMP, the industry regulator has applied a corrective measure within the interconnect regime, where MTN is supposed to forfeit 30% of what it would have received from competition as interconnect fee. MTN has since been complying with that rule.
There were other regulatory interventions proposed by the regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA), but those seem to have been shelved after some negotiation.
Competition also wanted some intervention in the mobile money sector as well, but the regulator, Bank of Ghana, has not announced any interventions yet.
Network as a service
Meanwhile, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful has urged MTN not to view the SMP declaration in a negative light, but rather as an opportunity to work with the other industry players to grow the entire ecosystem.
She said being an SMP means MTN can now make its network available as a service for others in the ecosystem so that all can grow as MTN even grows further.
The Minister also thinks MTN can play a leading role in government’s plans to ensure national roaming.
Indeed, since last year, MTN had announced that it was working towards becoming a complete digital operator by 2023 and then move on to become a complete platform player under MTN Group’s Ambition 2025 strategy.
Ambition 2025 means MTN would offer its network as a platform for others within the ecosystem to create innovative services and offer them to Ghanaians outside of MTN.
Here’s what MTN Ghana CEO, Selorm Adadevoh said about Ambition 2025 at the launch of the 25th Anniversary:
“…we have repositioned our strategy from BRIGHT to Ambition 2025, which aims to build the largest and most valuable platform business with a focus on Africa. Ambition 2025 is anchored on five pillars: Fintech Solutions, Digital / ayoba, Enterprise, Network as a Service, and an API Marketplace.
“In this strategy, we see exciting opportunities for mobile commerce where fintech intersects with our ayoba business. We are hoping to aggregate APIs to accelerate the digital ecosystem expansion E.g., a customer should never need to interact with an agent to manage their MTN experience; all SMEs should be able to become digital without IT skills inhouse by leveraging our platforms and by so doing can pay taxes digitally through MoMo; we should be able to use QR codes for trotro or taxi payments; we must have the ability to pay tolls by scanning car number plates; we should be able to track criminals through digital safety cameras on our streets and from artificial intelligence, identify the national ID card details for a camera image and lastly, we should be able to stamp out MoMo fraud using a similar artificial intelligence identity tracking algorithm.”
On his part, MTN Ghana Board Chair, Ishmael Yamson said all the ambitious goals ahead of MTN and of Ghana to grow the telecom industry would require that industry players are given additional spectrum to deploy the most modern technology such as 5G.
“We, for instance, need very robust telecom infrastructure to realize the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) dream as hosts of the AfCFTA headquarters and that would require additional spectrum for industry players,” he said.
According to him, closing the digital divide still remains a challenge as the world has gone ahead with 5G and 6G.
This, he said, meant that Ghana would need to take bold steps to negotiate that curve and go ahead to meet the demand AfCFTA places on the country for digital infrastructure.
He said MTN is ready with the capacity and the will to partner government to develop the industry infrastructure to meet AfCFTA requirements but that would require additional spectrum.