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Sierra Leone’s government envisions full fibre coverage by 2017

Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies has begun construction work on a 400km fibre-optic network in Sierra Leone, which will link the towns of Lungi, Port Loko, Makeni, Koidu, Ferengbeya, Bumbuna and Kabala. All Africa cited Sierra Leone’s deputy ICT Minister Theo Nicol as saying: ‘This project will reduce cost of internet services by half. For now, those with computers can connect to the fibre line upon its completion this month.’ Further, the official revealed that the entire country would be covered by fibre-optic networks by 2017.
In separate news, Sierra Leone’s telecoms regulator – the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM) – has reportedly threatened the country’s mobile operators with penalties following an increase in complaints over the poor quality of their networks, StarAfrica writes. A NATCOM representative was quoted as saying that the regulator had secured a ‘quality of service (QoS) monitoring machine’ that would allow it to measure QoS parameters, including dropped calls and call success rates.

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone: NATCOM fines AFcom for bypassing the international gateway

Sierra Leonean internet Service Provider (ISP) AFcom has been fined USD220,000 for illegally terminating international calls and thus bypassing the country’s international gateway, local newspaper Global Times reports. Following an investigation into SIM box fraud, the police reportedly raided a company’s depot at the Bamoi Hotel, located in Freetown’s upscale neighbourhood of Aberdeen, and seized equipment allegedly used by the company to illegally terminate international calls. Momoh Konte, chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), said in an interview with the local media: ‘We have to end this culture of impunity … Those defrauding the state of much-needed revenue are nothing but enemies of the state… They must be prosecuted for undermining the country’s fragile economy.’ A spokesman for NATCOM also said that other companies and private individuals involved in SIM box fraud will be named by the telecoms regulator in the coming weeks.

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone liberalises international gateway

Sierra Leone’s government has approved the Telecommunications Amendment Act 2015, which will see the liberalisation of the country’s international gateway, the Awareness Times reports. The new bill repeals and replaces Section (33) of the 2006 Telecommunications Act (as amended); the preceding legislation entrusted the ownership and operation of the international gateway to Sierra Leonean incumbent operator Sierratel, which in turn subcontracted its management to Teltac Africa. Further, telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) is said to have identified an international gateway monitoring system (IGMS) for the operation of the newly liberalised gateway, which ‘will provide robust management, fraud detection and transparent system of revenue collection from voice and data traffic’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in return for a USD31 million funding from the World Bank to subsidise Sierra Leone’s connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable, the government said it would end Sierratel’s monopoly on the international gateway for voice calls in September 2012. The amendment to the Telecommunication Act of 2006 was subsequently postponed and ahead of the new set date (5 July 2013), Sierratel’s management voiced its concern that the end of the international monopoly would be disastrous for its finances. However, exasperated by the lack of progress, the World Bank suspended the Sierra Leonean component of the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP) project in September 2014 due to several ‘blatant’ breaches of the agreement.

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone to revoke licence of indebted telco Comium

Sierra Leone’s telecoms watchdog, the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), has announced that effective 13 October 2014, the operational licence granted to Comium Sierra Leone will be revoked, following the company’s failure to settle its debts, domestic newspaper Global Times reports. The regulator said in a Public Notice published on 7 October 2014 that it has held ‘several meetings with representatives of the company in a bid to have the financial liabilities of the company addressed in the interest of the sector’, but talks ultimately proved ’futile’.
In January 2014 NATCOM issued Comium with a 21-day notice of suspension of its licence and the utilisation of the resources allocated to it. Following an intervention by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), the debt-ridden operator was given a three-month extension period to pay its creditors; the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was further prolonged on two occasions, in May and August 2014.

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone: NATCOM said to have revoked Ambitel’s operating licence

Sierra Leone-based mobile start-up Ambitel (GreenN), a subsidiary of LAP Green Network, itself 100% owned by Libyan government-owned investment vehicle Libyan Africa Portfolio (LAP), has reportedly had its operating licence revoked by the country’s telecoms watchdog National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), PC Advisor reports. John Weir, former CEO of the cellco, and the new head of rival operator Smart Mobile, was cited as saying: ‘All I know is that the license of Ambitel has been revoked and there have been further redundancies, but I cannot comment on what the plans of another business are.’
According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Ambitel was awarded a concession to provide GSM services in Sierra Leone in the beginning of 2008. In early 2011 CEO Elmabruk S. Elgembari said the company planned to invest USD50 million in the next three years, adding that the operator had so far constructed a total of 128 cell sites. While commercial services were initially slated to launch on 27 April 2011, the operator failed to meet the deadline, blaming the delay on the political unrest in Libya. Frustrated at Ambitel’s slow progress, NATCOM reportedly ordered the cellco to inaugurate commercial services by the end of 1Q13, a deadline which the company missed.

Source: TeleGeography

Lintel CEO divulges future plans; hopes to add two new markets within next three years

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ziad Dalloul, the chief executive of Africell’s Lebanese parent company Lintel Holding, has revealed that the company generated annual sales of USD220 million in 2013, up 30% year-on-year. Lintel, which owns operations in Gambia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), also recently paid USD12 million for the assets of Orange Uganda, and Dalloul is optimistic that he can reverse the unit’s flagging fortunes before too long. While confirming that regulatory approval for the takeover was finalised last week, he told the WSJ: ‘Orange’s board decided to withdraw from some losing operations. For us, it was a good opportunity. They have a very good network, with 3G and Long Term Evolution [technology] … We think that we can turn it around in a year.’ Meanwhile, with regards to the group’s pan-African expansion plans, he noted: ‘We hope to achieve [a footprint in] at least two markets within the next three years … [a target is] any market that has less than 50% mobile penetration.’

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone to adopt per-second billing on 1 July

Sierra Leone’s telecoms regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), has announced that all GSM operators in the country will convert their billing platforms to leones (SLL) per second from the current units per minute billing, effective 1 July 2014. NATCOM has pointed out that failure to comply with this regulatory directive would lead to the imposition of fines on the defaulting operators. The decision to simplify the billing procedure was taken ‘following a series of resolutions taken in various consumer parliaments and several meetings between the commission and all GSM operators.’

Source: Telegeography

Sierra Leone: Airtel deploys next generation data centre in Sierra Leone

Airtel Sierra Leone has ordered a combined data and telecom centre from Flexenclosure, a specialist designer and manufacturer of prefabricated data centres and intelligent power management systems for the ICT industry.
In a multi-million dollar deal, Flexenclosure will install its trademark eCentre solution for Airtel Sierra Leone in the country’s capital Freetown. The contract has been signed and construction of the eCentre has commenced at Flexenclosure’s factory in Vara, Sweden. The facility is expected to be operational within six months.

eCentre by Flexenclosure is a custom-designed, prefabricated data centre building that is fast to deploy, energy efficient and easy to expand. For Airtel Sierra Leone, Flexenclosure will provide a facility of 385sqm which will include an IT data centre, telecom network switching centre, transmission room and staging area. The facility will be an important addition to Airtel Sierra Leone’s telecom and data infrastructure, expanding the company’s existing network and IT capacity.

“As the leading telecommunications provider in Sierra Leone, we constantly strive to bring in the latest technology in our infrastructure development for the benefit of our customers”, said Sudipto Chowdhury, MD, Airtel Sierra Leone. “This new data centre fits right into this strategy. It provides fast expansion as well as activation of both new telecoms and data services to meet increasing customer demand. Once completed, the project will generate IT & Telecom awareness amongst young local engineers and technicians as well as providing opportunities for long term employment monitoring and maintaining the data centre.”

“This is the first deployment of its kind on such a big scale for Airtel in Africa and Asia and will bring about a major transformation in data centre building technology and standards”, said Pradeep Vats, Group Head – Real Estate and Data Center Facilities, Bharti Airtel International. “This data centre will be of very high quality, meeting Tier 3 standards. The main objective to select Prefab Modular DC technology & Flexenclosure as partner for this project was to be sure of receiving the best design, quick deployment time, easy expandability and energy efficient power & cooling equipment, thus achieving both redundancy as well as a large reduction in our energy costs. The combination of latest DC build technology by Flexenclosure in their factory and use of local material and labour for DC Utility Block in Sierra Leone, has allowed us to design the project as a unique hybrid solution which is being done probably first time by anyone in Asia & Africa. We plan to develop many more such DCs in other countries of Africa in near future to further enhance our IT & Network Infrastructure & Services.”

“This order is very rewarding since it is our first eCentre order from Airtel; the first ever deployment in Sierra Leone by Flexenclosure; and indeed the first ever prefabricated modular data centre in the country,” said David King, CEO, Flexenclosure. “This underlines our leadership in prefabricated data centres in the developing world. Sierra Leone is a logistically challenging place to deliver this kind of project in, but we have a phenomenal track record of successfully delivering in challenging environments,”

Airtel Sierra Leone is the leading communications provider in Sierra Leone. The company is a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa. Bharti Airtel ranks amongst the top four mobile service providers globally in terms of subscribers.

Source: IT News Africa

Burundi, Sierra Leone get Smart

Smart Telecom Burundi, backed by Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) Kenya, part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), in partnership with Cyprus-based, Russian-owned Timeturns Holdings, has relaunched its mobile network services under the unified Smart brand shared with its new sister east African ‘Smart’ operators in Uganda and Tanzania. Following a launch event in late-March, Smart Burundi – the former ‘Lacell Su’ which was wholly owned by Timeturns before IPS/AKFED came onboard as majority owner of the Cypriot-based group’s east African ventures – has begun marketing its revamped services including a rate of BIF75 (USD0.0477) ‘for every on-net call’ advertised on its Facebook social networking site. Smart Burundi also says it will be providing comprehensive mobile internet and voice services, with the stated aim to bring ‘improved service, value and coverage’. IPS is also the majority shareholder of Afghanistan cellco Roshan and a stakeholder in TCell in Tajikistan, while the AKFED division also holds the largest investment stake in the SEACOM submarine cable. Its partner Timeturns’ operational interests also include cellular investments in Nepal, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Also late last month, Timeturns’ subsidiary in Sierra Leone, InterGroup Telecom SL, belatedly launched its commercial mobile network services under the Smart Mobile brand. Smart Mobile (Sierra Leone) switched on services in the capital Freetown on 28 March at its new office headquarters. Marketing director Waseem Jabasini told local newspaper Awareness Times that Smart Mobile is hoping to bring ‘transparency and improved customer service’ to the market. The launch was preceded with a ‘teaser’ campaign featuring the operator’s yellow branding colour. Jabasini stated that Smart Mobile will expand its network coverage to rural areas of Sierra Leone by the end of 2014. SIM cards are on sale for SLL1,000 (USD0.228) with pre-loaded credit, while billing and recharge (top-up) will be based on local currency, leones, rather than ‘units’, which the company said will improve clarity and accuracy of charging. The marketing director further revealed that all calls within the network will be free for 30 days from SIM activation as part of the launch promotion, while SIMs are available from ‘numerous’ sales points around Freetown. CEO of Smart Mobile, Ray Akwa said: ‘We are very happy and excited to launch our service to the public. We want the people of Freetown to pilot our network and provide us valuable feedback regarding their experience, in order to improve our network quality during the first months of operations.’ Another local report on blog site said that Sierra Leone’s minister of communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, made the first video call through the Smart Mobile network to President Koroma, adding that Smart Mobile holds licences to operate 3G, GSM-900/1800 and WiMAX networks.

Source: Telegeography

Sierra Leone: Africell Crosses The 2 Million Active Subscribers

Africell Sierra Leone Crosses The 2 Million Active Subscribers

The Group is expecting to end 2014 with over 11 million in total active subscriber base

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, Africell Holding announces that Africell Sierra Leone crossed the two million mark with over 2,250,000 active subscribers.

The Group is expecting to end 2014 with over 11 million in total active subscriber base.

Africell Sierra Leone is positioned as an uncontestable market leader with 65% market share and is forecasted to cross the 3 million active subscribers by the end of 2014.

Source:(African Press Organization) on behalf of Africell Holding.

Sierra Leone: Sierra Wi-Fi to launch services in May 2014

Anthony Melhem, CEO of Sierra Wi-Fi, has revealed that the company had been authorised by the country’s telecoms watchdog the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) as an internet service provider (ISP). According to Sierra Express Media, Sierra Wi-Fi was established in 2012 as a subsidiary of Canada-based telecoms solution specialist World Affinity Telecom, and aims to provide broadband services over Wi-Fi and WLAN networks in Western and Central Africa. According to the article, Melhem said at a press conference: ‘Sierra Wi-Fi [is] legally registered and was licensed by NATCOM so it could be possible to operate within legal means in six months, [with operations] initially starting in Sierra Leone and expanding to Liberia and Ghana in the next six months.’ Services over the Wi-Fi network are scheduled to start in Sierra Leone in May 2014.

According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in July 2012 parent firm World Affinity Telecom signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) worth USD6.7 million with the government of Sierra Leone to deploy a national Wi-Fi network. In February 2013 Wi-Fi technology solutions provider Edgewater Wireless Systems announced the first shipment of ‘Wi-Fi 3’ equipment to World Affinity Telecom. Edgewater Wireless’ Wi-Fi3 technology will be used to deliver broadband services and applications over Wi-Fi and WLAN networks—initially throughout the capital Freetown, and subsequently extending the network across the country.

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone government threatens to seize control of Comium

The government of Sierra Leone has reportedly threatened to take over the management of Comium Sierra Leone, the country’s second largest mobile operator by subscribers, if the company fails to address its debt and network problems, CFO World reports. According to the article, at a meeting with Comium’s management and staff, officials from the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM), urged the operator to ‘quickly come into agreement with debtors as well as workers, after which the government will allow it to continue with unhindered operation’.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in September 2013 local media reports alleged that the company was facing financial difficulties, as government officials in possession of a court injunction stormed the company’s headquarters with the intent to shut down the business after it failed to meet its debt obligations to several banks. Subsequently, in November 2013 the High Court of Sierra Leone sealed off one of the offices of the network operator, after ruling that Comium was liable for a payment of SLL5.5 billion (USD1.257 million). For its part, NATCOM revealed to the media that they had intervened on several occasions to try and resolve the issue amicably, but that Comium’s management ‘has not been living up to the expectations of the agreement for the recovery of the loan’. Further, the struggling company reportedly suffered another setback when rivals Africell and Airtel started blocking calls originating on its network.

Source: TeleGeography

Sierra Leone: fACE off: operators, government clash over submarine cable access

Telecoms service providers in Sierra Leone are reportedly threatening to seek international arbitration, in relation to the government’s threats to shut them down, following allegations that all telcos with a stake in Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB) – which manages the country’s connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system – have failed to meet a 16 December 2013 deadline to address some of their financial obligations. PC Advisor reports that Mohammed Sheriff, the managing director of SALCAB, has accused AFcom, LimeLine and Africell Sierra Leone of using SALCAB’s service for free since its introduction in mid-2013, ignoring the requirement to pay USD10,000 per month. Further, the executive said that the SALCAB paid USD500,000 to the ACE consortium on behalf of the service providers, and outstanding fees of USD184,000 are still liable to the state-owned business entity. In addition, Sheriff pointed out that the SALCAB charges USD200 for 1MB, far less than the USD2,000 per 1MB internet service providers (ISPs) were paying for satellite transmission.
For their part, AFcom, LimeLine and Africell have denied the allegations and in turn have accused the government of invalidating previous agreements signed with former Minister of Communications, Ibrahim Kargbo. The initial agreements reportedly called for the operators to appoint members of SALCAB’s board of directors, who would take over the responsibility of managing the ACE landing station in Sierra Leone, including the payment of USD1 million for operational costs between January and July 2013. However, telcos said that when current ICT Minister Alpha Kanu assumed the post he ‘informed service providers that they were no longer shareholders in SALCAB, removed them from SALCAB’s board and took over a bank account containing about USD700,000 of service provider funds.’ The joint statement also said: ‘The managing director of SALCAB has sent out demands for payment to each operator of USD31,000 per month for each STM-1. Under the signed agreements, each operator owns 5xSTM-1 and with a planned upgrade next year which will increase it to nearly 10xSTM-1 … clearly, the operators have no way of absorbing these exorbitant increases and the only result is that the internet would be more expensive for the people of Sierra Leone.’ Further, the telcos have complained that none of the network providers in the country have paid the new charges, yet the ministry has chosen to disconnect only a handful.
Deputy Information Minister Theo Nicol has also released a statement pointing out that the initial agreement was suspended as the ICT minister had determined a need to change SALCAB to a profit-making entity. Nicol said that telecoms service providers were getting the service almost for free while the government was paying a huge sum to the ACE consortium. Further, the executive revealed that the plan is close to getting cabinet approval. However, Nicol also refuted claims made by ISPs and stated that six of the nine ISPs using the ACE systems have paid the charges.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, on 5 June 2010 the Sierra Leonean government signed the ACE Construction and Maintenance Agreement (CMA) via its wholly-owned newly established company SALCAB. In February 2013 the government’s share in SALCAB was diverged to a 51/49 PPP; a total of nine broadband and mobile service providers were revealed as in possession of a stake in the consortium at the time, namely Sierratel, Airtel, Africell, Comium, AFcom, LimeLine, IPtel, NextGen, TelTak and SALCAB itself.

Source: TeleGeography