The government has commenced the construction of 2,016 cell sites under the Ghana Rural Telephony and Digital Inclusion Project, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications and Digitalization, has said.

She said the project is being implemented in partnership with Huawei and China National Technical Import and Export Corporation (CNTIC) with a €155 million facility secured by the Government in 2020 from the China EXIM Bank.

This forms part of the government’s efforts to extend basic telephone voice and data connectivity to unserved and underserved communities and is also in line with the government’s digitalization agenda, which aims to build a robust digital economy and sustainable development across the country.

Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who disclosed this at a press briefing in Accra on Sunday, said it would facilitate a national roaming service and enhance voice and data connectivity to millions of rural people.

According to her, over 3,000 communities in Ghana had zero connectivity to mobile voice and data in 2020, representing 4.5 – 5 million people across the nation with the need and desire for voice and high-speed data services.

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are reluctant to build ‘Cell Sites’ in these rural communities as the low economic activities and the sparse population there make it economically unviable. Extending connectivity is capital intensive and expensive, without government intervention these rural communities will remain cut off and unable to participate in the digital revolution which is gradually unfolding in our country.

She said the rollout of Phase 1 is ongoing and it is expected to be completed by 2023, with all 2,016 sites commissioned and integrated with MNOs.

“We are currently working on the documentation for phase 2 of the project which will cover 1.1 million subscribers and upgrade the network to 4G for all subscribers,” she added.