NATIONAL : NCA declares war against illegal bypass
The National Communications Authority (NCA) is collaborating with the security agencies and the judiciary to develop procedures to arrest and prosecute fraudsters engaged in illegal international bypass.
The Director-General of the NCA, Mr Paarock Van Percy, disclosed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Guadalajara, Mexico, on the side-lines of the ongoing 18th Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
The collaboration, he said, was expected to help curb the illegal bypass operations on the international gateway traffic. .
According to Mr Van Percy, the Electronic Communication Act, 2008 (Act 775) identified such actions as an offence punishable upon summary conviction by a fine or a term of imprisonment.
The Minister of Communications, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, is leading a government delegation, including Mr Ohene Agyekum, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States of America (USA), Professor Mike Ocquaye, a former Minister of Communications and present Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Twumasi Appiah, Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Communications, Mr Fritz Baffour, the Member of Parliament for South Ablekuma and member of the Communications Select Committee and senior officials from the Ministry of Communications, to the conference.
Within the last three months, the government has been able to bag about $14 million by implementing the International Gateway Monitoring project.
Mr Van Percy explained that the termination of international in-bound calls through illegal gateway operators was done by the use of ’SIM boxes’, a device that maps a call to a SIM card (in the SIM box) using the Internet and specialised Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.
"This enables incoming international calls to terminate as local calls, thus bypassing the international gateway operators duly licensed for carrying and terminating international calls," he said, adding that "SIM boxes are, therefore, used to perpetrate bypass fraud.”
Mr Van Percy said this illegal practice was evidenced by the fact that even though the call originated from outside Ghana, a Ghanaian telephone number was reflected on the receiver’s phone when the call was received.
"The consequence of this is that these illegal bypass operators, usually small international carriers who seek to maximise earnings by avoiding the payment of the set international termination rates, succeed in robbing licensed operators and the Government of Ghana of international call proceeds," he added.
Mr Van Percy said that practice had been in operation for quite some time now "but the good news is that as part of the implementation of the International Gateway Monitoring project, such calls are promptly detected and information passed to the operators to block such SIM Cards".
On the NCA’s regulatory powers over service operators, he said the object of the NCA was to regulate the provision of communications services in Ghana.
"The NCA is mandated to grant authorisations and licences for the operation of all public communications services in the country; these include cellular networks and other such mobile communication services. The authority is also empowered to allocate and regulate the use of frequencies," he said.
Mr Van Percy said part of that mandate also required the NCA to ensure fair competition among licencees, operators of communication networks and service providers of public communications.