Subscribers angry with telcos for poor services (May 5)

There is growing public anger over the poor services being rendered by the country's telecommunication companies (telcos). The poor services, characterised by call drops, call breaks, network congestion, Internet interruptions and disappearing data, have compelled some users to subscribe to more than one network.
Although the complaints are nothing new, what has aggravated public anger is the fact that in the past, penalties imposed by the National Communications Authority (NCA) on the companies did not seem to have any impact on quality of service.
Between November 2011 and 2015, the NCA fined the operators more than GH¢2 million for various offences that affect service quality.
While industry players maintain that challenges confronting the telecom industry, including the breaking of cables by contractors, stealing of cables, frequent power outages and high fees charged by landowners, account for the problems, that excuse does not appear to sit well with mobile phone users, as they call for stiffer punishment for telecom operators who flout the regulations.
In November 2013,  the NCA banned  MTN, then with 11.7 million subscribers, from selling new SIM cards because of call drops and deteriorating services.
Although telecom sector regulators lifted the ban a month later, it was a  warning to operators to improve their performance.
NCA ultimatum
But the situation still remains and perhaps the NCA is not amused, as it has met the operators and given them an ultimatum.
At a meeting with the mobile operators in April 2017, the NCA was reported to have directed the mobile operators to provide the regulator with a strategy as to how they intended to address quality of service (QoS) issues, particularly within Accra-Tema.
At the said meeting, the acting NCA Chief Executive, Mr Joe Anokye, reportedly told the telcos to fix the challenges, including call drops, poor quality of voice and slow Internet services.
“Both the NCA and the mobile network operators (MNOs) have a shared responsibility to address these issues and ensure that consumers are satisfied with the level of service they receive from their respective providers,” he was quoted as saying.
Engineers of the telcos are reported to have informed the authority of the challenges they faced in delivering the expected QoS and cited site acquisition, especially in the high-end residential areas, as one of the main challenges.
 However, Mr Anokye encouraged the operators to find solutions to the problems, as consumer satisfaction was key and required a good faith effort.
When number portability system came into effect in July 2012, the expectation of many subscribers was that their freedom of choice in moving from one network to another, without losing their numbers, would redefine competition and improve services.
The new service was expected to impose cutting-edge responsibility on the operators who would now ensure that the quality of their service was good enough to retain the confidence of their subscribers.
Telecom Chamber
Efforts to get the Ghana Telecom Chamber and the NCA to speak to the issues did not yield results, but in the past the chamber had insisted that the factors leading to the challenges, such as call drops and call set-up time across networks, were a function of the social and economic environment.
According to the chamber, cable cuts, thefts and bottlenecks in rolling out telecommunication infrastructure all contributed to the poor service.
The view within the chamber is also that critical sites planned to provide capacity and coverage in identified areas have not been built due to acquisition and community agitation problems.
The immediate past Chief Executive of the chamber, Mr Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, had in the past said it was only when telecom infrastructure was built that quality of service would improve in communities because it was the infrastructure that carried the service.
Customers lament
Until that is done, there will continue to be lamentations from subscribers.
One of them, Emmanuel Amo Mensah, said: "Vodafone took my credits (data bundle). I called them to complain, thinking they might resolve the problem, but they didn't mind me, as if I'm nothing."
"Airtel data services are very poor at Weija Mandela. I bought a GH¢5-data package and could not browse for a second," Adolf Milne-Dekowski, another subscriber, complained.
The situation of poor services by the telcos is not limited to only Accra and Tema.
From Bolgatanga, Alhandu Abdul-Hamid reports that mobile network subscribers in Bolgatanga have resorted to bundling their call credits to prevent them from being ripped off by the network providers
A banker with the Bolgatanga branch of the Bank of Africa, Mr Mohammed Mubarak, who subscribes to both MTN and Vodafone, said although the networks were good, they were not predictable and could misbehave at any time.
He said the networks were mostly bad during weekends, leading to call drops and cuts "but you realise that you are being charged for those calls".
To forestall being ripped off, Mr Mubarak indicated that he took advantage of the promotional packages of MTN and Vodafone by bundling his call credits for the month, which was very cheap.
He said those bundles also gave him the opportunity to use his data to access the Internet where he could upload and download a lot of materials.
Some residents of the Sunyani municipality have raised issues about the poor services being rendered them by the telecommunication companies, report Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah &  Biiya Mukusah Ali.
A mobile money service provider, Cecilia Kruwaa, accused Vodafone and tiGo of sometimes deducting airtime from her accounts, even when she received calls from other people. 
She also accused MTN of deducting some units from her accounts even when messages sent were not delivered.
 She also complained about high charges, saying that “without bundle, the unit or the airtime runs faster than rainstorm”.
A-30-year old contractor at Kotokrom, Mr Felix Zaglaa, who uses Airtel, tiGo, MTN and Vodafone, singled out Airtel and accused the rest of rendering poor services.
 A taxi driver, Mr Alex Kofi Adjei, popularly known as ‘Empty’, was much particular about the high charges of fees by the telcos.
Mr Adjei, who said he brought GH¢10 Airtel scratch card last week, declared that he had since not been able to load it onto his account, despite repeated trials.
Some mobile phone users in the Kumasi metropolis have welcomed the competition among service providers in their bid to increase their subscriber base.
While many are of the view that the competition has helped in the improvement of services, others say some of the service providers are taking subscribers for a ride.
Meanwhile, many of the subscribers who spoke to the Daily Graphic complained about poor connectivity, especially when they are out of the cities, and high service charges, writes Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor from Kumasi.
Mr Richard Bonsu, who uses four different lines, for instance, complained about high data charges by almost all the networks.
He was mainly concerned about call drops. 
“I work at Asafo, which is almost at the centre of Kumasi, and if you experience call drops there anytime you want to make calls, one wonders the kind of service the networks are providing,” he lamented.
Another subscriber, Adwoa Agyemang,  said she got connected to one particular network only where she resided, which was outside the metropolis.
Kofi Twumasi, a businessman, was of the view that the telcos had turned themselves into a cartel and were fleecing their customers.
He said he used three different networks and said there was no difference among them when it came to poor services, especially, when it came  call drops, difficulty in the usage of date and high cost.
He described the NCA as an accomplice which, instead of seeking the interest of ordinary customers, had folded its arms.
Cape Coast
From Cape Coast, Timothy Gobah reports that Mr Wisdom Apedo, a teacher at the Ghana National College, Cape Coast, said the performance of MTN and Vodafone, the two leading companies, left much to be desired.

He said on data bundle, for instance, when a page was being loaded, it took a very long time to load. Besides, the  voice call was nothing to write home about. 


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