Sierra Leone's mobile market showing continuing fluidity
Sierra Leone has enjoyed sustained political stability in recent years, following a decade of civil war. The departure of the UN's local mission in March 2014 marked the end of more than 15 years of international peacekeeping operations in the country. The exceptional economic growth seen in 2012 and 2013 has slowed but remains strong, and this has encouraged international companies to invest in the country. Nevertheless, the telecommunications infrastructure is only gradually recovering from the destruction caused during the war years, and the theft of equipment and cabling. These difficult operating conditions have been compounded by neglect, mismanagement and underinvestment, factors which have seen the demise of some telcos, including Comium and Smart Mobile. The telecom regulator continues with its efforts to improve the market, including the liberalisation of the international gateway and regulator checks on quality of services. It has not shied from fining miscreant operators for providing poor services, or for promoting packages deemed to be disadvantageous to consumers.
Given the poor state of the fixed-line infrastructure, the mobile sector has been the main driver of overall telecom revenue. There continues to be movement in the market, with Orange Group in mid-2016 having completed its acquisition of Bharti Airtel's local unit and the Gambian telco QCell being awarded a licence to operate mobile services.
The state-owned fixed-line incumbent Sierratel has entered the mobile market, which it uses to provide fixed-wireless access and broadband services. It briefly had a monopoly on 3G mobile services before other operators launched their own services based on HSPA technology in 2011 and 2012. More recently network operators have invested in LTE upgrades: Africell was the first network operator to launch LTE services in Sierra Leone, followed by Sierratel in January 2018.
Sierratel launches LTE services;
QCell hoping to launch mobile services later in 2018;
Regulator approves 27% price increase for mobile voice calls;
MNOs increase investment to provide national mobile coverage;
Regulator selects Subah Infosolutions Ghana to manage the international gateway;
Construction of 600km ECOWAS Wide Area Network completed;
Airtel completes rebranding as Orange Sierra Leone;
Sierratel relaunches a fixed-telephony network following $30 million investment;
Report update includes recent market developments, operator data to June 2017.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company (Sierratel), Bharti Airtel (Zain, Celtel), Comium, Africell (Lintel), Millicom (Tigo), Cellcom, LapGreen (Ambitel, GreenN), Access Point Africa, Afcom, African Information Technology Holdings (AITH), Onlime (LimeLine).