By Fred Yaw Sarpong
Vodafone Ghana, the second mobile operator in Ghana has escape fine from the National Communications Authority (NCA) for successive 14 months, after the national regulator found no fault against Vodafone on quality of service.
In an interview with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Vodafone, Patricia Obo-Nai said primarily it has been through a strategic position to invest into the network.
According to her when Vodafone took over from Ghana Telecom some years back, they had about 300 based stations and that was not enough to deliver the quality of service (QoS) they wanted across the network.
‘So we decided to invest into the business operation of the network but not just our brand because we believe in the quality of service to our customers. It was important to spend money to improve upon the network and today we have about 1,600 based stations spread across the country with about US$700 million investment. I think this is a testament to the investment that we made,’ she told the reporter.
NCA has been monitory the mobile network operators in the country on monthly basis. However, for the past 14 months and consistently Vodafone Ghana has not failed any of the measure used by NCA. NCA measure the QoS of the network operators every month across the country without the knowledge of the operators.
Obo-Nai, the 2012 Best Female Technologist of the Year by Mobile World indicated that they have been putting lot of money into their operation and have kept their eyes on the network consistently. ‘We also put in a lot of monitory system 24/7 and also mimic the customer which is very important to us as an operator,’ she explained.
‘Our system within the network across the country behaves like the customer and that made us get the first hand experience of our customers experiencing. That really helps us to fix the issue with a team of great technicians around,’ said Vodafone Ghana CTO.
She explained further that because they have mind to remain reliable and be trusted, she believe that they can deliver what their customers need with the conscious effort to consistency keep investing in the network.
She said that they have system within the network across the country, where they monitor customer experience. ‘It is one thing in taken statistics at the office and it is other thing for looking at what the customer experiencing. So we really monitor everything and response accordingly,’ she added.
Touching on some challenges specifically facing the network operation, Obo-Nai stated that their challenges have been the cuts on their cables and theft. ‘People are still stealing our copper and mix it up with the fibre. We run the mobile network on fibre and when they steal the copper and cut them, it disrupt the network. And we have construction works that affects our cables and it takes time to restore and that has been one of our major challenges,’ she noted.
She mentioned that the second challenge is that they find it difficult to secure lands and areas to mount mast, even though they are willing to make investment into those areas.
Before 14 months ago, they were rolling out the network, but there are some areas with gaps they needed to fix them. ‘Therefore, what we were doing was that, once NCA was texting and measuring the QoS, we were also rolling out the network. At a point we realize we have put in so much and we can’t chose to relax but rather to keep the consistency,’ said Obo-Nai.
On co-location of mast with the other operators, she indicated that their first option was to put up a mast with the other operators. But the difficulty in dealing with the 5 or 6 operators is that everybody wants to build and expand as well, so there is a limit to how much co-location mast can even take. ‘When we have no access to co-location, then the next option is to build our own. That is where the difficulties come in,’ she emphasized.
She urged Vodafone customers to expect consistency and reliability from them. You can expect that we have your interest at heart. ‘Although the system can fail, our customers should know that there is a very good team willing to fix the problems at the shortest possible whenever they are occurred. So we promised them the best quality of service they deserved,’ said the CTO.
Vodafone won this year’s best ISP of the year and Obo-Nai said it was fantastic achievement for them. She stated that they were not meeting the needs of their customers alone but also includes their corporate clients.
In addressing the challenges facing the network, Obo-Nai said they are working with the National Security and the Ministry to help prevent the fibre theft from occurring but noted that it is also important from their side to put in place system to keep the network perfectly in place.
‘So we have put in place a decentralize team across the country and if we have a cut, they quickly run to fix it. But more importantly we have found alternative root for our traffic. So for instance, if we have a cut in one area, we find an alternative to carry the traffic to keep the network up while we send the team to fix it and that has really helped us,’ she explained.
In terms of acquiring sites in some areas it is very difficult. The management of Vodafone Ghana is introducing various innovative measures on how they will roll out the network services perfectly.
She said that within the 14 months they have had issues but what was important to them was how quickly they responded to those issues and how they put permanent solutions to those issues.
‘We actually do not know where NCA will drive to, so our focus is to make sure that all our network services are functioning properly,’ she added.
She was of the point that, the significant aspect of the 14 months is that Vodafone is the only operator not fine by NCA and they have consistency keep their customers happy.
‘Usually, NCA fine affects the moral operation of the network and as well as the brand. When that happen it make us feel we have deliver poor service to our customers and corporate bodies.
Previously, the poor service delivery and fine from NCA affect us a lot. We lose huge revenue through this process, said Obo-Nai.
Patricia Obo-Nai has been in the telecom industry for 15 years. She moved from Tigo before joining Vodafone. ‘I love telecom, which come from a lot of passion. It is rewarding when others sees you performance and recognized your efforts. We have secured the network leadership and the priority to me is to maintain it,’ she told this reporter.
She promised to offer her best and put Vodafone Ghana on the world map.