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Sierra Leone - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

The Sierra Leone - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts report includes all BuddeComm research data and analysis on this country. Covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation.


Executive summary

Sierratel to be privatised in dynamic market environment

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 took place in 2008/09 when one network (Datatel) ceased operations and the market’s number two (Africell) acquired the number four (Tigo, operated by Millicom). The other players are Zain which was acquired by India’s Bharti Airtel in 2010, and Lebanese-owned Comium.

Two additional mobile licences have been issued to Cellcom and Libya’s LapGreen which was preparing an imminent launch under the name Ambitel GreenN in late 2010. Two other companies have been holding mobile licences since 2004 but haven’t rolled out services.

In addition, the state-owned fixed-line incumbent Sierratel 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 have not yet been introduced.

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 was announced in 2010. Capital from a strategic investor is needed to enable the company to compete effectively - a tender for its privatisation was set in motion in July 2010. 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 when the first international fibre optic submarine cable reaches the country in 2011 or 2012.

Market highlights:

Forecasts to end-2011 for mobile, fixed-line and Internet market;
Search for strategic investor in Sierratel;
International gateway monopoly under review;
New mobile networks set to launch following market consolidation;
Broadband still very expensive, more 3G mobile services expected;
First international fibre optic submarine cable to land in 2011/12.Estimated market penetration rates in Sierra Leone’s telecoms sector - end-2010
MarketPenetration rate
Mobile48%
Fixed0.6%
Internet0.3%
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)

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;
Broadband and mobile data services and pricing trends;
Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile).

  • Executive summary
    • Table Estimated market penetration rates in Sierra Leone's telecoms sector - end-2010
  • Key statistics
    • Table Country statistics Sierra Leone - 2010
    • Table Fixed-line network statistics - 2010
    • Table Internet user statistics - 2010
    • Table Mobile statistics - 2010
    • Table National telecommunications authority
    • Country overview
  • Telecommunications market
    • Overview of Sierra Leone's telecom market
  • Regulatory environment
    • Background
    • Regulatory authority
      • National Telecommunications Commission (NTC, NATCOM)
    • Tariff regulation
    • Future regulatory direction
    • Telecom sector liberalisation
  • Fixed network operators in Sierra Leone
    • Sierratel
      • Network infrastructure
      • Wireless Local Loop (WLL), CDMA2000 1x EV-DO
      • Privatisation
    • Other operators
      • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1999 - 2011
  • International infrastructure
    • New international submarine fibre optic cables
      • Table International submarine fibre optic cables in West Africa - 2009 - 2012
    • International gateways, grey market
  • Internet and broadband market
    • Overview
      • Table Internet users and penetration rate - 1999 - 2011
    • ISPs and converged service providers
      • Access Point Africa
      • Afcom
      • AITH
      • Datatel
      • FGC
      • icom.net (Comium)
        • Table icom.net wireless Internet pricing - November 2010
      • IPTEL/Sierra-Com
      • LimeLine
      • MultiNet
      • Sierratel
    • VoIP Internet telephony
    • Broadband market
  • Mobile communications
    • Overview of Sierra Leone's mobile market
      • Mobile licensing
        • Table GSM licences and operations in Sierra Leone - 1998 - 2010
      • Mobile statistics
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration rate - 2000 - 2011
    • Major mobile operators
      • Zain (Bharti, formerly Celtel)
        • Table Zain SL subscribers and market share - 2003 - 2009
        • Table Celtel/Zain SL ARPU - 2002 - 2009
      • Comium
      • Africell (Lintel)
      • Tigo (now part of Africell)
      • Sierratel
      • Datatel
      • Cellcom
      • Ambitel GreenN
    • Mobile data services
      • Table Zain mobile Internet pricing by data download - January 2010
    • Mobile content and applications
      • M-payments
    • Satellite mobile

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