Type Approval (Conformance)
In recognition of the importance of conformance and interoperability to the socio-economic development of Ghana, the NCA has implemented various initiatives to address issues including safety consideration and consumer experience. A key objective of the Authority is to protect the health and safety of persons, the public interest, property, and telecommunications networks. This object has resulted in the Authority conducting Type Approval or Equipment Authorisation to ensure that all radio communication and telecommunication equipment used in the country comply with international standards that are applicable in Ghana. Type approval of Equipment is also conducted to ensure amongst other considerations that, no substandard equipment which may present health and safety hazards to consumers, in general, are operated in this country.
Mandate of the NCA on Standardisation
The mandate of the NCA as it pertains to Standards (Type Approval) varies. Section 3(n) of the National Communications Authority Act, 2008, Act 769 allows that to achieve its object, the Authority shall certify and ensure the testing of communications equipment for compliance with international standards; and environmental health and safety standards including electromagnetic radiation and emissions. Further to this, Section 66 of the Electronic Communications Act, 2008, Act 775 states that any terminal equipment sold or otherwise provided in this country may be connected to a public electronic communications network if the Authority certifies that the terminal equipment is safe for the user, is in compliance with international standards, and environmental, health and safety standards including standards for electromagnetic radiation and emissions, meets the requirements of electromagnetic compatibility provisions of international treaties relating to electronic communications, does not pose a risk of physical harm to the network, effectively utilises the electromagnetic spectrum and prevents interference between satellite and terrestrial-based systems and between terrestrial systems, and is compatible with the network. The NCA is also mandated to recognise similar approvals from other jurisdictions that it may specify.
Previous Approach to Type Approval in Ghana
Before the current regime, the Authority had two different approval procedures for Equipment Authorisation – Certification and Port Inspection as well as Type Approval Guidelines to help streamline type approval activities. Manufacturers or Importers had to present test results from certified institutions or Laboratories about the intended device to be imported into the country. The results amongst others indicated the radio frequency energy being radiated by the device. When the device is found to be compliant, that is if it meets the relevant technical standards, the NCA certification was then issued.
Gaps Which Required the Authority’s Action
Some gaps were identified that needed bridging by the NCA;
1.The NCA solely relied on the test reports submitted as part of the application requirements. There were no facilities to conduct testing or verifications where required and also to test during market surveillance.
2.The Type Approval Guidelines have been the main document outlining the requirements for the Type Approval process. A guideline is not a legislative instrument and therefore cannot be enforced in a court of law.
3.Additionally, Applications for Type Approval were done manually by the submission of applications at the offices of the NCA. The Type Approval application documents are bulky. As a result, the review process and approval certificate took a long time to complete.
4.The list of Type Approved electronic communication equipment (ECE) was not being published by the Authority.
5.There was also no link between the Type Approval process and ECE imported into the country.
The Current Approach to Type Approval in Ghana
Taking cognisance of these gaps, the NCA has strengthened its Standardisation (Type Approval) regime. The following have been implemented in this regard;
1. The NCA has a Type Approval Guideline that clearly outlines the requirements for the Type Approval application process including the lead time for reviewing the applications.
2. The Authority in collaboration with the Ghana Standards Authority has adopted and adapted identified international standards for the Type Approval regime. The work was achieved through the National Standardisation Committee on ICT, known as the TC24, which was set up by the Ghana Standards Authority. The committee is made up of representation from the National Communications Authority, Ministry of Communications, academia, industry, the Ghana Institution of Engineers, and the Ghana Standards Authority.
3. Type Approval Regulations are being developed to help make provisions and requirements enforceable by law. The regulations have been drafted; public consultation and media sensitisation workshops have been held across the country. Further meetings and consultations will go on with the industry before it is submitted to Parliament.
4. A Type of Approval Management System has been developed to enable applicants to submit their applications online. The Type Approval Management System also has a database of all electronic communications equipment Type Approved by the NCA. The database is accessible to the public including officials of Ghana Customs.
5. The Type Approval Management System also has a database of all the entities that have been issued Dealership Licences by the NCA.
6. Marking requirements have been outlined in the draft Type Approval Regulations. The NCA will ensure that all Type Approved electronic communication equipment has been marked as per the provisions in the regulations.
7. The NCA has established Type Approval Testing Laboratories to enable it to test and verify electronic communications equipment that is going through the Type Approval process, where necessary. The laboratories will also aid the market surveillance efforts of the NCA.
8. There are four Type Approval Testing Laboratories. These are Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) testing laboratory, Electromagnetic Field (EMF) measurements, Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) receiver testing laboratory, and Radio Frequency and Signalling (RF&Sig) testing laboratory.
9. There is now a link between the type approval process, port inspections, and GCNet system making it difficult to clear equipment that is not Type Approved.
Benefits to Industry and Consumers
At the core of these regulatory interventions is the benefit it has for the industry, consumer, and indeed the State.
– Increased consumer access to safe and quality ICT devices.
– Enhanced consumer quality of experience on networks.
– Guaranteed environmental safety and health of users of ECE.
– Ability to check counterfeit ICT devices and facilitate secured digital transactions.
– Reduces the circulation of fake ICT devices.
– Decreasing time-to-market for companies manufacturing telecommunication equipment with shorter product life cycles, thus maximizing export opportunities and allowing for rapid re-investment in research and development for next-generation technologies.
– Prevents damage/interruption to interconnected networks.
– Ensure effective use of the frequency spectrum.
– Avoid interference with other communications systems.
– Facilitates the availability of quality equipment to operators.
– Promotes interoperability between communications networks.
– Promotes the development of communications networks including the supply of Electronic Communications Equipment by qualified suppliers.
– Ensures conformance to national and international standards.
– Checks counterfeit equipment and facilitates secured digital transactions.