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Ghanaian Interest MTN Nigeria's $5.2bn fine buttresses Ghana's need for ICH in - Afriwave

The fine has also reduced MTN's outlook ratings to negative and weakened investors confidence in the Nigerian telecom market with potential negative effects on future investments into the market.

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As industry experts grapple to come to terms with the short, mid, and long term implications of the hefty $5.2 billion fine on MTN Nigeria, Afriwave Telecoms Ghana has lauded the foresight of the National Communications Authority (NCA) in creating the Interconnect Clearinghouse license in Ghana and including the management of Subscribers Sim Registration Authentication as one of its core functions.

MTN Nigeria has been fined $5.2 Billion for its inability to deactivate unregistered Sim cards. The fine has already resulted in catastrophic repercussions for the MTN Group including the resignation of it Group CEO, over 20% drop in share price within 4 weeks of the announcement of the fine, and potential change in the management of its Nigerian operations.

The fine has also reduced MTN's outlook ratings to negative and weakened investors confidence in the Nigerian telecom market with potential negative effects on future investments into the market.

Afriwave CEO Philip Sowah noted that the offense committed by MTN Nigeria and the resulting fine could have been prevented if the process of subscriber registration authentication and deactivation of unregistered sim cards was handled by an independent company as has been proposed in Ghana under the operation of the Interconnect Clearinghouse.

He contends that an operator like MTN is more likely to keep unregistered sim cards on the network and generate additional revenue from the subscribers, but an independent company in charge of subscriber sim registration management has no financial incentive to keep unauthorized subscribers on the network and therefore will be more likely to do the needful, and deactivate them as required by law.

Afriwave is the company licensed by the NCA to offer Interconnect Clearinghouse services in Ghana, and is also charged with implementing an active subscriber registration authentication management platform.

The ICH platform will ensure unregistered sim cards are not only deactivated from the operators networks, but subscribers using the unregistered sim cards will be barred from making or receiving calls until the SIM cards are registered.

This, according to Philip Sowah, will ensure that every call made or received by subscribers in Ghana will be from verifiable sources.

Unregistered sim cards posses a number of risks to the country as such sim cards are not only used for SIMBOX fraud, but can also be used to commit various crimes including armed robberies and kidnapping.

Telcos and other industry experts however insist that the one big panacea to an efficient and effective sim registration is a single national ID verification system that allows for instant verification of every ID anyone used to register a SIM card, and Ghana does not have that yet.

They believe if the ID verification system is put in place, it will enable effective implementation of a policy that prevents one person from registering more than a given number of SIM cards, and thus prevent the crimes associated with mass registration of SIM cards in one person's name.

But the NCA also insists that all the five possible ID cards that are allowed for sim registration; passport, voter ID, National Health Insurance ID, Drivers' License and National ID cards, have systems that allow telcos to verify the IDs submitted for sim registration so that is not a problem.

-Joy FM

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