Busy Ghana’s 4G network COLLAPSES under inimical tower co-location arrangement
The 4G LTE network of Busy Ghana, formerly Busy Internet, the one-time leading and very popular internet service provider (ISP) in Ghana has collapsed under the very inimical tower co-location arrangement in Ghana.
Busy Ghana has been disconnected by both ATC Ghana and Helios Towers due to their huge unpaid legacy debts to the two towercos, which have piled up over the years.
A deep throat at Busy Ghana told Techgh24 “our LTE network is completely shut down and I don’t think it is coming back – what is left is to seek the interest of the Ghanaian workers at Busy”.
On September 28, 2022, Techgh24 reached out to Busy Ghana via their customer service WhatsApp channel – 0243500584 – about the 4G network shutdown, and the company replied and said “Please note that we are currently experiencing a general network downtime at some locations on the network. Our engineers are on site working hard to restore service immediately. We deeply apologize for the inconvenience caused”.
But at the time they sent that WhatsApp message, the entire LTE network of the company had already been disconnected by the towercos due to their heavy legacy debt to the towercos.
Meanwhile, Busy Ghana is not alone in the heavy indebtedness to towercos, particularly ATC Ghana. Apart from MTN Ghana, which has the financial muscle, and Glo, which does not participate in tower co-location, all the other players are heavily indebted to towercos – ATC Ghana in particular.
Some are actually suffocating under their heavy debts to ATC Ghana but are keeping up appearances on the market.
This situation, which Techgh24 wrote about in two volumes – here and here, stems from the fact that the National Communication Authority (NCA), after collecting licensing fees from operators and compelling them to join tower co-location arrangements, has left the operators at the mercy of the towercos and the towercos employ policies that favour bigger players, particularly MTN, and short-changes the smaller operators.
For instance, because most of ATC Ghana’s towers were acquired from MTN, the two entities have signed a lease-back agreement, which means MTN stands to enjoy some agreed-upon favours that not all the other players can enjoy. Moreover, a lot of the tower management staff of MTN crossed over to ATC Ghana and so they are allegedly seeking the interest of their former paymasters to the detriment of the smaller players.
NCA has failed to regulate that space and that has become the main fuel for MTN’s continuous growth and the continuous decline of the smaller operators. Indeed, some industry experts have suggested that the inimical tower co-location arrangement is largely responsible for MTN Ghana’s SMP (significant market power) position.
ATC Ghana for instance, charges a minimum of GHS12,000 per tower per month from each operator – and they control over 60% of all towers and more than 80% of co-location towers in the country. The smaller operators are therefore forced to use ATC Ghana even though they cannot afford the high tower fees, which is estimated to be about 60% higher than the industry benchmark.
The smaller players have called for some regulatory intervention to rescue the industry from a gradual collapse in favour of only one player, but the regulator, which has become more of a revenue collector, has remained virtually unconcerned about the turn of events.
Busy Ghana’s strange 4G authorization
Just a few years ago, NCA, under very strange circumstances, named Busy Ghana as one of the companies with 4G LTE “authorization”. In fact, NCA could not call Busy Ghana a licensee, but rather an authorized operator, creating ambiguity in the space.
Some industry players, at the time, expressed worry that NCA took an alleged US$250,000 from Busy Ghana and gave them authorization to operate a 4G network, when in fact, MTN had then paid $67.5 million for 4G LTE compatible license, and three other companies had paid US$6 million each for 4G compatible licenses.
NCA has since left all the industry players to fend for themselves against the giants in the industry and the result is the collapse and near collapse of a lot of the players. Airtel, Tigo and now Busy Ghana are gone. Glo has moved its customers to AirtelTigo. Vodafone is selling its majority stake in Ghana in a bid to pack out by close of the year.
Meanwhile, AirtelTigo and Vodafone are also indebted to towercos and things are not looking good for them either.