Is MTN’s Exclusion From Ghana’s Upcoming 5G Neutral Network a Play At Balancing Competition? – Tech Labari

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In a significant move to advance Ghana’s digital infrastructure, the government, in collaboration with seven industry players, has established the Next-Gen Infrastructure Company (NGIC) to deploy a shared 5G network across the nation.

This consortium includes Ascend Digital, K-NET, Radisys, Nokia, Tech Mahindra, and two local telcos—AT Ghana and Telecel Ghana. However, one major player was absent from the consortium: MTN Ghana.

MTN Was Ready To Deploy 5G in 2022

MTN Ghana, the leading telecom operator in the country, had previously expressed its readiness to launch a 5G network in Ghana. It planned a pilot in 2022 but canceled it because the National Communications Authority (NCA), did not grant the necessary licenses for MTN to proceed.

This situation raises questions about the dynamics of market competition and the strategic considerations of the government in shaping the future of telecommunications in Ghana.

Is Government Trying To Stop A Repetition of the MTN 4G Era?

When the NCA auctioned off its 4G spectrum in 2017, MTN was the only player to bid and subsequently won the right to deploy 4G to its customers.

It took three years before Telecel (formerly Vodafone) deployed its own 4G service to its customers and AT Ghana (formerly AT Ghana) hasn’t even rolled out 4G to date.

It’s therefore not surprising that the regulator does not want a repeat of 5G rollout when MTN appears to be leading the field.

MTN Continues To Be The Dominant Player

In 2020, the Ministry of Communications and the NCA classified MTN as a “Significant Market Player” (SMP) due to the company having a majority share in both the data and voice market space in Ghana. As of 2022, MTN has over 65% share in both voice and data.

MTN took the Ministry of Communications to court but withdrew later on.

Providing A “Neutral” Field for Competition

By forming a consortium that excludes the dominant player, the government may aim to foster a competitive environment that prevents any single entity from monopolizing the 5G infrastructure. This strategy could potentially lead to more equitable access to high-speed internet services for all Ghanaians, regardless of their service provider.

The establishment of a neutral, shared platform like NGIC is seen as critical for delivering affordable, high-speed data access to the populace.

The decision to form NGIC also aligns with the government’s policies, which prioritize the use of a neutral infrastructure company to expedite the deployment of 5G services.

What’s Next for MTN Ghana?

The exclusion of MTN Ghana from the 5G consortium appears to be a deliberate policy choice aimed at promoting competition, ensuring market balance, and aligning with the broader objectives of Ghana’s digital transformation.

With its infrastructure already set up, what next steps will MTN take when its competitors launch 5G services in the next six months? The popular telecom has yet to put out any public statements regarding its 5G plan since the government announcement was made.

Whether this play by the government to balance competition will work in the long term is yet to be seen. But for now, MTN will continue to be the dominant force in Ghana’s telecom space and we don’t think the launch of 5G will change the balance of power.


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