Red flags raised in Ghana over multi-year exclusive deal to build 5G network – Light Reading

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The Ghanaian government’s decision to award a contract to build an exclusive 5G network to Next Gen Infraco, a consortium of several companies, has run into rough weather.

The National Democratic Congress, a Ghanaian political party that is part of the Minority Caucus, has called the 5G deal with Next Gen Infraco an “opaque transaction” that is “inimical to the national interest” in a press statement posted on social media. Next Gen Infraco is a consortium of several telecom and technology companies, including Reliance Industries’ Radisys, Microsoft, Nokia, Tech Mahindra, K-Net, and Ascend Digital. Ghanaian service providers AT Ghana and Telecel Ghana are also involved in the project.

The party alleges that the government could have easily generated revenue of around $400 million to $500 million if it had “opted for a more competitive process.”

“This revenue could have been channeled into critical development projects in this time of economic bankruptcy and excruciating hardships. Sadly, the corrupt Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government is giving away this important asset for a paltry USD$125 million payable in yearly instalments on a work-and-pay basis over the next 10 years.”

The Minority Caucus also raises concerns about the agreement’s exclusivity component. Based on the arrangement between the Ghana Government and Next Gen Infraco, the latter would have the exclusive rights to offer 5G services in the country.

Minority Caucus believes that since the existing mobile network operators (MNOs), including MTN, AT Telecel, and Internet service providers (ISPs), would need to go through Next Gen Infraco to offer 5G services to their subscribers, it will lead to monopoly.

“Next Gen Infraco would control a substantial 62.5% of every data/voice bundle package every mobile user buys, with only 7.5% going to the Government and 30% for Mobile Network Operators and Internet Service Providers. We hold the view that the monopoly and exclusive rights granted Next Gen Infraco under this opaque deal is unfair to other industry players and unacceptable,” says the statement issued by the National Democratic Congress.

Minority Caucus also says the transaction should have been approved by the Parliament “per section 33 of the Public Financial Management Act 2016 (Act 921). This renders the entire transaction unlawful, null, void, and of no legal effect whatsoever.”

It also alleges that some entities of the consortium are “mushroom entities owned by cronies of President Akufo-Addo and the Minister for Communications, with questionable track records.” While the Ghanaian Government holds 10% stake in Next Gen Infraco, Ascend Digital Solutions and K-NET together own a 55% stake in the company.

It is unclear how this controversy will impact the deployment of the 5G network by Next Gen Infraco in Ghana.

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