Immediately you see your phone ringing, you would obviously think it is a local call because of the number that appears on your handset. But, when you pick the call, you would realise that it is an international call, which appears with a local number.Due to the redirection of calls, the immediate impact is the inability to ‘call back’, resulting in a loss of roaming revenue. This norm has been ongoing for some time now, especially, with the appearance of Airtel (formerly Zain) numbers on the screen.

The Minister for Communications, Haruna Iddrisu, termed this norm as fraud being perpetrated by unidentified persons using a SIM box, a device that has multiple negative effects on operators, roaming hub providers and customers alike.

The situation, according to Mr. Iddrisu, was not peculiar to Airtel alone, as other operators like Vodafone, MTN, Tigo, and Kasapa are all victims.

In August 2010, Airtel recorded 5,794 fraud numbers, against that of 458 by MTN, 34 by Tigo, 990 by Vodafone, and 0 by Kasapa, her main competitors in the telecommunication industry in Ghana.

In the first month of this year (2011), thus January 1-20, Airtel again recorded 3,469 fraud numbers, representing 95% of the total fraud numbers on its network, the highest among the telecommunication operators in the country, in the same period.

The huge numbers that keep flooding Airtel’s network, according to the Minister of Communications, was alarming and had, therefore, “instructed” the National Communications Authority (NCA) to assist the company (Airtel) address the issue. Below is a table of the fraud numbers released by the Minister for Communications when he appeared in Parliament yesterday, to answer a question posed by Mr. Richard Akuoku Adiyia, New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Ahafo-Ano North, on the status of the installation of the Intelligence Signaling Management System on international gateways of telecom operators in Ghana.

The escalating fraudulent numbers on the networks of the telecom operators constitute loss of revenue to the companies and to the government, noted Haruna Iddrisu in his address on the floor of Parliament.

In May 2010, the Minister for Communications announced that the Government of Ghana incurred a loss of US$5.8 million, due to fraudulent termination of international calls coming into Ghana.

To promote transparency in the management of the International Gateways, and to check the prevalence of fraudulent deals by operators, both registered and unregistered, resulting in price dumping, Mr. Iddrisu said his Ministry are pursuing the implementation of a Call Verification System in Ghana, where the NCA and its partner, Global Voice Group (GVG) S.A., would instaZll an Intelligence Signaling Management System (SIM Box Fraud Detection Tool) to address the issue at hand.

The Intelligence Management System or the SIM Box Fraud Detection Tool is a measure to authenticate the Call Data Records (CDRs) telecom operators voluntarily submit to the NCA.

He told Members of Parliament that the dream, when achieved, would also increase the flow of revenue from international call termination to both operators and the government, and to empower the national regulatory authority to ensure a competitive terrain for license holders to fairly operate, dismissing claims that it would intrude private conversations.

Nonetheless, Mr. Iddrisu said the project had come to a standstill as a result of a court action instituted against the NCA by three Ghanaians, an action which was first pursued by the pressure group Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), but had to drop it after appreciating the need to eliminate illegal SIM Box termination in the country.

In spite of the court action restraining the NCA from carrying out its project, Mr. Iddrisu said the Authority was currently relying on the voluntary declaration of call volumes to invoice the telecom operators for the payment of the government’s portion of termination rate, as provided in the Electronic Communications (Amendment) Act 2009, Act 786.

The alternative exercise, according to the Minister for Communications, was yielding some results, since the revenue generated as non-tax revenue contribution to the Government of Ghana stands at about US$30 million, whilst the numbers of SIM cards have reduced from 12,440 in October, 2010, to 3,506 as of January 20, 2011.

He said the NCA would continue to pursue anti-fraud initiatives that would bring to a halt an influx of fraud numbers on the various telecom networks in the country.

“In the meantime, the NCA is continuing with its anti-fraud monitoring responsibility, and reports at two-hourly intervals to the telecom operators on fraud numbers detected on their networks, so that these will be immediately disconnected to prevent usage,” he noted, adding “Until the verification equipment is completed on the networks, this action cannot be authenticated.”

Mr. Iddrisu said the anti-fraud exercise being pursued by the NCA, had so far led to the arrest of two illegal operators, and the seizure of 8,792 SIM cards, “which if they were used, will lead to an estimated revenue loss of US$500,000 per month, with Government of Ghana losing up to US$100,000 per month in tax/levy collection.”

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