National telco to be privatised under three-year management contract
This annual report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Sierra Leone’s telecommunications market. Subjects covered include:
- Key statistics;
- Market and industry overviews;
- Government policies affecting the telecoms industry;
- Market liberalisation and regulatory environment;
- Major players (fixed, mobile and broadband);
- Telecoms operators – privatisation, acquisitions, new licences;
- Consolidation in the mobile sector;
- Infrastructure development;
- Mobile voice and data markets;
- Average Revenue per User;
- Internet and broadband development and growth;
- Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile).
Following more than a decade of civil war, Sierra Leone has enjoyed peace, stability and rapid economic growth since 2002. The country’s traditional telecommunications infrastructure has suffered damage and neglect, but the mobile sector has experienced excellent growth with competition between five GSM networks. Some consolidation has taken place when one network ceased operations and the market’s number two acquired the number four. Additional mobile licences have been issued but not all operators have launched services.
In addition, the state-owned fixed-line incumbent has entered the mobile market with a CDMA2000 1x network which it uses to provide fixed-wireless access and broadband Internet services following an upgrade to the EV-DO standard, making it the first 3G mobile network in the country. Other 3G services based on HSPA technology were launched in 2011 and 2012.
Rapidly declining average revenue per user is forcing the mobile operators to improve their services, streamline their operations and create new revenue streams, such as Internet access via mobile data services. In this area they are competing with a large number of wireless broadband network operators that have emerged as providers of converged Internet and VoIP telephony services.
Sierratel’s monopoly on the international gateway was reinstated in a controversial regulatory move in 2007 but a review of this decision is currently in progress. Capital from a strategic investor is needed to enable the company to compete effectively. It was placed under a three management contract in 2012 and its privatisation has been approved by Parliament. With assistance from the Indian government, Sierratel had already started to rehabilitate its fixed-line infrastructure and has taken first steps towards the rollout of a national fibre backbone network.
Depending entirely on satellites for international connections, without access to international fibre bandwidth, broadband services in Sierra Leone have remained extremely expensive, but this is expected to change following the recent landing of the first international fibre optic submarine cable the country.
- Privatisation of national telco in progress;
- International gateway monopoly under review;
- First ever international fibre optic submarine cable has reached the country;
- More 3G mobile broadband services launched;
- Broadband still very expensive;
- New mobile networks expected to launch following market consolidation;
- Mobile quality of service and pricing under review.
Estimated market penetration rates in Sierra Leone’s telecoms sector – end-2013
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Companies covered in this report:
Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company (Sierratel), Bharti Airtel (Zain, Celtel), Comium, Africell (Lintel), Millicom (Tigo), Datetel, Cellcom, LapGreen (Ambitel, GreenN), Access Point Africa, Afcom, African Information Technology Holdings (AITH), FGC Wireless, LimeLine, Multinet.