Auction of 4G spectrum collapsed Surfline, other broadband providers – Ursula

The Minister for Communication and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has attributed the collapse of broadband service providers such as Surfline to the 2015 decision to auction the 4G spectrum to mobile networks, particularly MTN.

Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said the auction gave an undue advantage to the mobile operators to the detriment of the broadband operators.

The Communication Minister in an exclusive interview with Bernard Avle on the Citi Breakfast Show on Citi FM on Monday, June 24, said the government has engaged the broadband operators to see how they can be supported to stay viable.

“Decisions taken in 2015 led directly to the collapse of these companies, these local broadband wireless operators who didn’t stand the chance once the space was opened up to the mobile network operators.

“It is as if we gave with one hand and took with the other. I have had extensive conversations with them to see how we can support them and it is not just Surfline which exited the market but Blue Broadband was also in there.”

She told Bernard Avle that putting up the 4G spectrum for auction began weakening the broadband providers.

“Government sold spectrum to local operators to do broadband on the understanding that they would be given exclusivity in that space, while mobile network operators did voice and procured data services from them [broadband operators] if they wanted to give those data services to their subscribers.

“After promising them exclusivity, we went ahead and auctioned the 4G to these same big players, who MTN then acquired the spectrum because it has so much more financial muscle than these local entities and so MTN cornered the market.

“At the price, the spectrum was pegged at the time, it was only MTN that could buy it and that made it possible for them to corner the high-speed data market and blow the rest of the operators out of the market.”

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