Telco experts join Afriwave to run ICH

Telecom companies may not want the interconnect clearinghouse (ICH) policy to be implemented the away government is doing it, but some top telco experts in the country have crossed over to help implement the ICH policy.

Top on the list is the former Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Ghana, Philip Sowah, who was also once the CEO of Onetouch, the mobile business of Ghana Telecom, which is today Vodafone.

Philip Sowah is now the CEO of Afriwave and therefore sits at the very top of the operations of the ICH to monitor the cross-network activities of his former colleagues who are opposed to the whole purpose of the ICH.

While Philip Sowah was with Airtel, he shared the view of his colleague telco bosses that the legally mandated minimum 19 cents per minute of incoming international call was the single motivator for SIMBOX fraudsters, so he joined the fight against the 19 cents.

Indeed, Philip Sowah was the first Chairman of the Telecoms Chamber Council, and in that capacity, he was the lead advocate, on the behalf of his colleagues, to have the 19 cents removed.

That fight is still ongoing and Philip Sowah may still believe the 19 cents is not good for the country, but as Afriwave CEO, he now has a mandate to ensure that his former colleague telcos do not charge anything less than that 19 cents, while he adopts other ways to fight SIMBOX fraud.

To help him do that is another former telco don; the recent past Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Tigo Ghana, Obafemi Banigbe, who is now the Implementation Consultant and COO of Afriwave.

When Banigbe was at Tigo, SIMBOX fraudsters did not find the network attractive because as CTO, he implemented probably the most rigorous methods to fight simboxing and he brings that experience to his fraud management role at the ICH.

At Tigo, Banigbe employed a strategy that meant every 15 minutes, SIMBOX numbers were identified and deactivated on the Tigo network; but he admitted that his strategy was not preventive but only detective, and he would not recommend it to other telcos because of the high risk involved.

Banigbe also said, and still maintains, that the only way to prevent SIMBOX fraud once and for all is for government to remove or reduce the mandatory minimum 19 cent tariff per minute of incoming international call.

Here is exactly what he said when he was at Tigo: “The single move that can prevent and not just detect simboxing is the removal of the 19 cents floor price for a minute of incoming international traffic.”

Sim registration

The regulator always insists if telcos do proper sim registration, that will help to identify the people behind simboxing and therefore help to kill the fraud.

But Banigbe said “even if telcos and the state correct all the flaws in the national identification verification and SIM registration systems that will still not be enough to prevent simboxing once the financial motivation (19 cents) still exist.”

Indeed, Afriwave is not claiming ICH will stop Simbox fraud completely, but they believe the three-step strategy they will employ, led by Banigbe, will reduce it drastically and also make it more cumbersome for fraudsters to continue, in spite of the obvious financial motivation in the 19 cents.

And Banigbe said he still believes the 19 cents still remains a key motivator to SIMBOX fraudsters, but the Afriwave rigorous strategy of generating up to 400,000 test calls from abroad every month just to check how many of them will terminate via local sims, will in a large way frustrate simbox operators.

“The more we deactivate their sims, the more they have to go to the hideouts and change sims, and in the process they can be easily busted in the hideouts,” he said.  “We will also use CDR profiling where we take a critical look at the activity of particular sims as they show up on the real time CDRs (call detail records) and we detect which one are SIMBOX numbers”

Meanwhile, other former telco executives who have joined Afriwave include Francis Amediku who used to handle specialized projects at Airtel Ghana; and Donald Gwira, who was the Head of Corporate Communications and Corporate Affairs at Airtel Ghana.

There are two other guys from the vendor side of the telecom industry, who have crossed over to Afriwave to help run the ICH. They are Kwame Anokye from Alcatel Lucent and Osman Issah from Ericsson, who used to be a Project Manager at Ghana Telecoms, now Vodafone.

Joining them to run the ICH are top management staff at Afriwave Telecoms, including Henry Sehayor, Chief Finance Officer and Francis Poku, Deputy Managing Director.

Credit: Joy News