Ghanaian Telecoms Consultant and Expert at Smart Africa Alliance, Osman Issah has said that the Interconnect Clearinghouse (ICH) can cure the alleged remote signing on of telecom subscribers to value-added services (VAS) and the subsequent vanishing of their airtime via same.
He was speaking with TechGH24 about the recent rampant vanishing on airtime on people’s phones, which was traced to several VAS subscriptions on people’s phones without their consent.
A case in point is one 78-year-old lady, Emelia Botchwey who lost over GHS40 to a VAS subscription called VUCLIP GAMES on MTN, for which she was charged GHS2.02 a day on her blind side, until her son discovered it and deactivated the service.
One Richard Bentle Junior also reported finding 12 unsolicited subscriptions on his phone recently, while yours truly also found an unsolicited paid-for Weather Service on his MTN TurboNet SIM, even though the TurboNet SIM was in the TurboNet and has never been put in any mobile phone.
One of the mandates of the ICH is to be a single point of connection between VAS providers and the telcos plus their subscribers. So VAS traffic becomes interconnect traffic.
Osman Issah noted that “This remotely signing people on without their consent will be minimized, and possibly eliminated if the ICH laws are fully implemented and the ICH is made the only mandated network to route VAS interconnect traffic from VAS providers to telcos and their subscribers in Ghana. This means that the ICH operator will only route interconnect traffic that has submitted to the laws of VAS traffic.”
Indeed, the National Communications Authority (NCA) has a fine law dubbed Unsolicited Electronic Communications Code of Conduct, which is supposed to guide and govern the operations of the VAS industry and how they relate to subscribers.
Section 6.1.3 of the NCA’s Code of Conduct says “The process of obtaining [subscriber’s] consent shall be clear and transparent to the subscriber,” while Section 31 (1,2 and 3) of places the duty of subscriber protection and consequences for the violation of same, squarely on the telcos, even if the violation was committed by their VAS partners.
Osman Issah observed whereas the ICH can ensure some sanity with regards to third-party VAS players whose service qualify as interconnect traffic, the limitation is that “the telcos are themselves VAS providers and therefore can choose to route their VAS traffic directly on-net to their subscribers without routing it through ICH.”
He however believes that the NCA can cure this limitation by insisting that telcos separate their VAS (authorization/license) business from the main telecom service as has been done for mobile money. In that case, all VAS authorization holders, including telcos, will have to rout the traffic through the ICH, and so there will be sanity there as well.
The Telecom Consultant however urged that the ICH operator, Afriwave Telecom ensure that it is really fully equipped to carry all the VAS interconnect traffic in the market, otherwise the market players may push back if the regulator wants to fully implement the ICH laws and insist all VAS interconnect traffic should go through the ICH.
Meanwhile, the ICH has recently added on a more sophisticated state-of-the-art data center through a strategic partnership with Ghana’s second Internet Exchange Point (IXP) host, ONIX, who now hosts Afriwave’s US$38 million infrastructure, set to provide full connectivity, Cloud and Value-Added Services into the Ghanaian and regional market.
Value for VAS Players
This, according to Afriwave, has put the ICH in a strong position to carry all the VAS traffic in addition to the 100% voice and SMS interconnect traffic in currently carries between telcos in the country.
Afriwave said it is set to also make life easier for the VAS players by eliminating the stress of having to go from one telco to the other to activate licensed short codes for a VAS service.
“They can now come to us and we will get all the telcos to activate the short code and then the VAS player can connect from the ICH and provide services to subscribers of all the telcos via the ICH,” they said.
Again, the ICH promises to address the revenue reconciliation challenges between VAS players and the telcos, leveraging the experience and expertise it has built in managing the interconnect revenue reconciliation between telcos themselves.
“So with the ICH, you kill two birds with one stone – you get easy and stress-free access to all telcos at a single point, and you also get the revenue reconciliation concerns addressed,” the company said in a write up copied to TechGh24.