The new centralized Ghanaian simbox test regime claims to have already identified and disconnected 300,000 lines used by fraudsters, according to a report in myjoyonline.com. A statement by Afriwave Telecom Corporate Affairs Director Donald Gwira said that Afriwave and its test call services subcontractor SIGOS had achieved this through increasing the number of test calls and running a deactivation platform which is linked to all Ghana’s operators. Gwira also stated:
Working with the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the law enforcement agencies in Ghana, we will be stepping up our strategy of Test Call Generation, which is what we are currently doing to include Geo-location solution, which will expose the location of the equipment and their operators for confiscation and prosecution so that SIM-Boxing is reduced to levels where it is no longer profitable for the fraudsters to stay in business.
The final claim sounds untenable to me. Ghana has already benefited from thousands of test calls over several years, as a result of the efforts made by Ghana’s telcos and Subah Infosolutions, who ran the national anti-simbox program before Afriwave effectively replaced them. If there are still so many simboxes in Ghana after all those tests, then the criminal profits must be enormous, and no amount of testing will be enough to eliminate the simboxers completely. And would Afriwave want to put all the fraudsters out of business? As demonstrated by this press coverage, the argument for paying for a national audit program rests on the belief that the auditors are delivering huge financial value by disconnecting existing simbox fraudsters. If there were no fraudsters to disconnect, they would find it much harder to explain the value they deliver.
The government contract with Afriwave continues to be bashed by Ghana’s telcos, and not without reason. These anti-simbox tests are conducted as part of Afriwave’s contract to deliver a single interconnect clearing house (ICH) for all Ghana’s telcos. However, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, recently pointed out that running a clearing house has no impact on simbox fraud per se. As he correctly observed, the decision to route national interconnect calls through a single clearing house has no bearing on the issue of how to detect international calls which have been unlawfully terminated by making them appear to be local mobile calls.
Sakyi-Addo argues that the only way to reduce simbox fraud in Ghana is to lower the 19 cent per minute terminating charge that the government mandates for all inbound international calls. He has my sympathies, as this exorbitant charge is why fraudsters profit by offering cheaper alternatives that avoid the termination fee – and is also a burden for anyone wanting to do business with Ghanaian companies.