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Ursula Owusu justifies why company awarded 5G contract was just a week old before approval

Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful

The Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has confirmed that NextGen InfraCo, the company awarded the 5G network rollout contract, was established just one week before receiving the contract. Madam Owusu-Ekuful explained that the company was specifically created for this purpose because there was no existing neutral infrastructure company capable of handling the rollout at that time.

At a press briefing on the 5G rollout, she elaborated on the government’s rationale for this decision. She noted that auctioning the contract was not pursued due to previous experiences and setbacks that had hindered the rollout of the country’s 4G technology. Since its introduction in 2015, 4G has only achieved a 15% nationwide penetration.

The Minister highlighted that the challenges faced during the 4G rollout influenced the government’s approach to the 5G deployment.  According to her, by directly awarding the contract to a newly created entity, the government aims to avoid similar obstacles and expedite the implementation process for the 5G network.

The Ablekuma West Member of Parliament provided insight into the government’s strategic decision-making process, emphasising the need for a dedicated infrastructure company to ensure the successful and timely rollout of 5G technology across the country. “This is a special purpose vehicle and once the government took the decision that we will use a neutral infrastructure company to deliver this service, there is no existing neutral infrastructure company that can deliver it at the moment.”

“So, it had to be specifically formed for the purpose of delivering this service based on the strategic policies and decisions of the government, and it is borne out of our experiences and that is why we chose not to auction it,” she stated. This confirmation coincides with concerns raised by investigative journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni regarding the contract awarded to NextGen InfraCo Ltd.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, May 30, Awuni pointed out that the company was incorporated barely a week before President Akufo-Addo granted executive approval for the deal.

Mr Awuni pointed out that the contract, which experts estimate to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was awarded through sole sourcing, without giving other companies the opportunity to bid for the project.

He maintained that the lack of competitive bidding raises suspicions about the transparency and fairness of the procurement process. Before Manasseh Azure’s claim, the government had announced a partnership with seven industry leaders to develop a new shared infrastructure aimed at delivering affordable 5G mobile broadband services across Ghana.  The seven partners include Ascend Digital, K-NET, Radisys, Nokia, Tech Mahindra, and two telecommunications companies – AT Ghana and Telecel Ghana.

The government said these partners have formed the Next-Gen Infrastructure Company (NGIC), which has been awarded a 5G license. NGIC is expected to launch 5G services across Ghana within the next six months, with plans for further expansion into other parts of Africa.

The government said NGIC will be the first entity to build a nationwide 4G/5G network, and it will collaborate with telcos to introduce affordable 4G/5G-enabled fixed wireless access (FWA) customer premises equipment (CPE) and smartphones in Ghana this year.

The partnership aims to enhance the lives of Ghanaians by introducing digital services in education, healthcare, and digital payment transactions through peer-to-peer (P2P), peer-to-merchant (P2M), and merchant-to-merchant (M2M) systems. This initiative is expected to reduce the digital divide and promote financial inclusion.

Moreover, the multi-party partnership will support NGIC in the comprehensive deployment of network infrastructure and related services. Communications service providers (CSPs) aim to address both enterprise and consumer markets with enhanced digital services.

To facilitate this, Tech Mahindra will build a Cloud Native Core Network powered by leading original equipment manufacturer (OEM) platforms. NGIC plans to adopt India’s successful model of affordable handsets, digital platforms, and localized content and applications. The objective is to replicate this high-speed mobile data model across Africa, starting with Ghana.

By: Ernest K. Arhinful 

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