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Sierra Leone - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

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.

Market highlights:

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

Market | Penetration rate
Mobile | 79%
Fixed | 0.3%
Internet | 0.5%
(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.

1. Executive summary
2. Key statistics
2.1 Country overview
3. Telecommunications market
3.1 Overview of Sierra Leone’s telecom market
4. Regulatory environment
4.1 Background
4.2 Regulatory authority
4.2.1 National Telecommunications Commission (NTC, NATCOM)
4.3 Tariff regulation
4.4 Quality of service (QoS)
4.5 Telecom sector liberalisation
5. Fixed network operators in Sierra Leone
5.1 Sierratel
5.1.1 Network infrastructure
5.1.2 Wireless Local Loop (WLL), CDMA2000 1x EV-DO
5.1.3 Privatisation, management contract
5.2 Other operators
5.3 Fixed-line statistics
6. International infrastructure
6.1 Satellite
6.2 Submarine fibre
6.3 International gateways, grey market
7. Internet and broadband market
7.1 Overview
7.1.1 Internet statistics
7.2 ISPs and converged service providers
7.2.1 Access Point Africa
7.2.2 Afcom
7.2.3 AITH
7.2.4 Datatel
7.2.5 FGC
7.2.6 (Comium)
7.2.7 IPTEL/Sierra-Com
7.2.8 LimeLine
7.2.9 MultiNet
7.2.10 Sierratel
7.3 VoIP Internet telephony
7.4 Broadband market
8. Mobile communications
8.1 Overview of Sierra Leone’s mobile market
8.1.1 Mobile licensing
8.1.2 Mobile statistics
8.2 Major mobile operators
8.2.1 Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain, Celtel)
8.2.2 Comium
8.2.3 Africell (Lintel)
8.2.4 Tigo (now part of Africell)
8.2.5 Sierratel
8.2.6 Datatel
8.2.7 Cellcom
8.2.8 Ambitel GreenN
8.2.9 Smart Mobile
8.3 Mobile data services
8.4 Third generation (3G)
8.5 Mobile content and applications
8.5.1 M-payments
8.6 Satellite mobile
9. Related reports
Table 1 – Country statistics Sierra Leone – 2013
Table 2 – Fixed-line network statistics – 2013
Table 3 – Internet user statistics – 2013
Table 4 – Mobile statistics – 2013
Table 5 – National telecommunications authority
Table 6 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1999 - 2013
Table 7 – Internet users and penetration rate – 1999 - 2013
Table 8 – wireless Internet pricing – 2010 - 2012
Table 9 – GSM licences and operations in Sierra Leone
Table 10 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 2000 - 2013
Table 11 – Celtel/Zain SL subscribers and market share – 2003 - 2009
Table 12 – Celtel/Zain SL ARPU – 2002 - 2009
Table 13 – Zain mobile Internet pricing by data download – 2010
Table 14 – Airtel 3G mobile broadband pricing – 2012
Chart 1 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 2002 - 2013
Exhibit 1 – Map of Sierra Leone
Exhibit 2 – West African common regulatory framework 2005
Exhibit 3 – Other international submarine fibre optic cables in West Africa

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