1. What is Interconnect Clearing House (ICH)
A. The Interconnect Clearing House license is a license which was issued by the National Communications Authority to a service provider to provide one stop shop for the government to deploy and monitor services provided by telecom operators in the country.
These services include:
This License shall be for the provision and operation of Clearinghouse services using radio, cable, satellite or a combination of any of these systems deployed for the purpose of providing point-to –point or point –to-multipoint communication for the connection to Service Providers for the conveyance of voice, data and video.
The capability to connect and route voice, SMS, MMS, or any other telecommunications traffic between Service Providers and to monitor traffic volumes of each Service Provider.
Facilitation of monthly reconciliation among connected Service Providers among other Financial Clearinghouse services.
Operating and maintaining Anti-fraud Management systems for Service Providers and Government
The capability to authenticate mobile number registrations before any service activation
Provision of data packet measurement and differentiation tools for Quality of Service and Price Regulatory compliance.
Connectivity to Number Portability Services, Bank Switch, and Internet Connect Exchange respectively as and when required.
The capability, if needed, to host local and international Over-The-Top (OTT) service providers
The capability to provide a common infrastructure for Government Agencies to host ICT Systems and Applications and to store confidential data securely.
2. What are the implications of the ICH to the Telecom
A. ICH comes with a lot of benefits for the telecoms industry which is constantly evolving. These benefits include:
Simple, cost-effective and reliable Points of Interconnection (POIs)
Coordinated Effort in tackling SIM-Box fraud with the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)
Efficient handling of new and traditional interconnect requirements (e.g. International Wholesale License Carriers, 4G operators)
Enable new Value Added Services to be deployed and connected to MNO relatively easily
Coordinated effort to curtail Phone theft for most phone types except Clone Phones
Provision of independently verified Industry Data for the government of Ghana for the purpose of policy making
Provision Financial Clearing house services to facilitate easier settlement of interconnect fees amongst MNOs
Better utilization of Interconnect links
Billing and Mediation services
3. What is SIM Box Fraud?
A. Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) Box Fraud is a set up where fraudsters in Ghana connive with partners abroad to route international calls through the internet using voice over internet (VOIP) and terminate those calls through a local phone number in Ghana to make it appear as if the call is a local call. The caller is often not aware of the activities of these cyber fraudsters whose activities result in the loss of revenue to the service providers and the State. It is estimated that government and the telecom operators are losing $40 million annually through SIM box fraud.
4. How will Afriwave be leading the fight against SIM box
fraud following its successful bid for the Interconnect Clearing House project?
A. Telecoms is a dynamic industry and a lot has changed since the debate around motivation for the SIM box fraudsters. The new strategy calls for a concerted and coordinated approach to tackling the menace and this is what Afriwave is going to do with its three step strategy:
Test Call Solution: We will be making 400,000 test calls per month versus current total of less than 120,000 (all operators and monitoring company).
Call Data Records Profiling: If our machines detect simultaneous calls coming from a SIM or a series of SIMs there is the high probability that those calls are coming from a SIM box machine which would call for further investigation.
Localisation Finding: Using sophisticated machines to detect the hideouts of the SIM box and have them arrested and their equipment confiscated.
We have also engaged leading industry partners and experts to
support our specialist team to arrest the situation and thereby significantly
reduce the incentive factor which drives most SIM box fraudsters.
5. Is the legally mandated minimum 19 cents per minute of incoming international call still the single motivator for SIM box fraudsters?
A. This is one of the key drivers for sim box fraud however removing or reducing the incoming call termination rate from 19 cents will mean that both the government and the operators will lose money. If sim box fraud is managed well, both government and the operators can retain or even increase their revenues.
6. What expertise does Afriwave have in operating an
A.Afriwave was selected out of four other applicants as the most qualified firm to deliver on the license which is to provide a common, independent mechanism for monitoring, routing, billing and settlement of local and international interconnect traffic for all existing and future telecommunications operators in the country. The company has also engaged world-class partners and industry experts to support its specialists' team to deliver on the license.
7. What are the benefits of the Interconnect Traffic monitoring (local and International)?
Ability to independently validate minutes
Ability to confirm and validate each international carrier sending incoming traffic to Ghana
Ability to alert Bank of Ghana on amount of forex due to incoming international traffic
Combating sim box fraud by making 400,000 test calls per month vs current total of less than 120,000 (all operators and monitoring company). Partnered with Keynote-SIGOS (formerly Meucci Solutions), global leader in sim box fraud management.
8. In which countries, has this proposed solution (ICH) worked and do these countries have telecommunication industries typical to that in Ghana?
A. Clearinghouse services are in various models and may also be called Tele-houses, Meet-Me-Points, and Points-of Presence. They are available in India, United States, and United Kingdom for example.
The interconnection scheme in countries vary and each country has sovereignty over how it adapts to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommendations to maximize its benefits. Ghana has chosen among the option of using an independent Licensee to operate Clearinghouse services which will also operate other centralized services that the Government requires such as Traffic Volume Monitoring as well as inter-connectivity between operators.
9. Does the ICH, in any way, address consumer concerns on privacy and the quality of service?
A. As with any other public communications service provider in Ghana, the Clearinghouse strictly observes the privacy and confidentiality laws of the country and applies them rigidly. With respect to Quality of Service, the Clearinghouse by its resilient architecture is designed to meet the stringent quality of service demands for connecting Service Providers.
10. Who will bear the additional cost of interconnectivity and SIM registration?
A. The cost of operations of the Clearinghouse shall be funded by regulatory fees which is contributed to by all licensees in Ghana.
11. What are the practical and technical risks from an ICH, if any, that Ghana should be concerned about?
A. The primary risk is the single point of failure of the ICH however, this risk is mitigated by the fact that Afriwave will have 3 independent data centers in operation at any given time with each data center having the capability to transit 100% of the interconnect traffic being generated. This level of redundancy makes the likelihood of this risk virtually negligible.
12. If the ICH suffers an outage or a shutdown, what plans are in place to mitigate disruptions to service for consumers?
A. Afriwave has put in place a robust nationwide connectivity plan which is linked to the network of the Mobile Network Operators. Afriwave's operations are supported by three Data Centres, two in Accra and one in Kumasi to provide geographical redundancies. Connectivity between Data Centers will be over Fully Redundant Fiber Optics Cable Network. Core Network is provided by a leading world class equipment manufacturer.
13. Should the ICH be MANDATORY and connected to all MNOs?
A. Yes because all the new International Wholesale Carriers will need the ICH to be able to connect to all the MNOs to deliver traffic. It will also be the single point of access available to local VAS (Value Added Service) providers to get access to all the MNOs from one place.
14.Can routing of International and local traffic from incumbent MNOs through the ICH be optional?
A. Yes, this is what the NCA is proposing. The MNOs will continue to carry their own traffic. If in the future there is a reason/need for the MNOs to route traffic through the ICH, this will be done in consultation between the NCA and the operators.
15.There is a concern that that NCA is going to take away the International Gateways licenses of MNOs?
A. This is incorrect since the International Wholesale Carrier Licensees will co-exist with the MNOs.
16. What will Afriwave be doing differently from competition?
First of all, the service provider’s contract ran out and a tender was issued to select a new provider and Afriwave won that tender out of 5 bidders.
Afriwave Telecom has expanded the scope of Government anti-fraud management operations by doing 400,000 test calls in a month. This will have negative impact on SIMBOX operations and minimize the effectiveness of the menace if not completely eradicated.
Additional deliverables of the license not in the scope of work of service provider.