NCA Defends Telecoms Statistics

The National Communications Authority (NCA) has assured the public on the accuracy of market statistics in the telecoms industry as mobile phone subscription growth edged up marginally to 21.3 million at the end of February this year. The NCA’s comments come amidst recent media reports that quote tiGO as stating in its 2011 annual report that the network is still the second-biggest in the country, despite the NCA crediting Vodafone with that position. Other statistics reported in the media as captured in tiGOs annual report cast doubt over the penetration rate and the total cellular subscriber base of the country.A source close to the Quality of Service Unit of the NCA’s Regulatory Administration told the B&FT yesterday that the market data on the telecoms industry provided by the regulator should form the basis of all analysis of the industry’s growth and opportunities.It said the Authority is the only mandatory body in the country to provide accurate market statistics on the industry.“The only reliable information that people can count on is what the NCA reports -- whether it is subscription, network quality, penetration or anything.“If an operator says the derived benchmarking is not how they see it, can they show us their source of information? Some of the operators who have expressed doubts over the market statistics only cite industry experts as their source.“But these statistics are not [generated] by sampling or research. It is about querying the database system of the operators; and if anybody has anything otherwise, ask them if they have audited and queried the database of all the operators.“No operator in Ghana can have access to another operator’s network. But for us it is our right to have access to every bit of information in their system,” a source at the NCA’s Quality of Service Unit said.The NCA explained to the B&FT how it captures market statistics in the telecom industry, saying: “How we measure the subscription data is that the operators supply us with the data on their subscribers and then we audit their database systems against the parameters we have set for them, and we run the query to ascertain the true number and that is what we do for every operator. “We do a checklist to see whether what they sent us and what we have from the auditing are the same, and whether there are any issues arising. Afterwards, both officials of the NCA and the operator sign-off.“If an operator is questioning how another operator reports its subscriber numbers, the question that you ask yourself is ‘how did he know?’ Has [the operator] run audits and queries on the [other] operator’s systems as we have done? “No operator or unnamed expert can have the privilege to run the queries on an operator’s system other than us (NCA).”According to the country’s telecoms industry watchdog, about 115,431 new subscriptions were made within the month of February, bringing the total number of cellular subscribers to 21,381,137.This represents a 0.54% growth rate over the previous month’s figure, and the first time in six months that the cellular subscription rate had assumed a northerly turn -- albeit marginally. MTN maintained its stranglehold on the mobile phone market with 48% of subscriptions while Vodafone followed in second place with a subscriber base of 4,366,536, representing 21% of the market. The drop in tiGO’s subscriber base continued with a 1% decrease to 3,693,999, pushing its total market share to 17%.Airtel followed in fourth place with 2,813,598 subscribers, representing 13% of the market, with Expresso having the least subscriber base of 183,670, representing 1% of the market.