Sierra Leone - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband
ACE cable landing provides connectivity to boost broadband services
This annual report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Sierra Leone's telecommunications market.
Subjects covered include:
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;
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 since 2002 enjoyed stability and rapid economic growth. 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.
A high number of complaints to the regulator is forcing the mobile operators to improve their services and network capabilities. In this area they are competing with a significant number of wireless broadband network operators that have emerged as providers of converged internet and VoIP telephony services. The mobile sector remains hampered by high prices and unreliable networks. Several operators have been fined during the last two years over their network performance, while competition has been stymied by continuing legal disputes which have prevented Ambitel from launching commercial services.
Sierra Leone depended entirely on satellites for international connections until February 2013 when it was connected to the ACE submarine cable. This has considerably improved bandwidth capabilities and is expected to bring down the price of broadband which has hitherto been extremely expensive.
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 | 38%
Fixed | 0.3%
Internet | 1.6%
(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.