Sierra Leone - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

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

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:

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 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.

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 | 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.

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
7.2.11 Sierra WiFi
7.3 VoIP Internet telephony
7.4 Broadband market
7.4.1 WiFi and WiMAX
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 (e)
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 Historic - Fixed lines in service and teledensity 1999 - 2004
Table 7 Fixed lines in service and teledensity 2005 - 2014
Table 8 International bandwidth 2010 - 2012
Table 9 Historic - Internet users and penetration rate 1999 - 2004
Table 10 Internet users and penetration rate 2005 - 2014
Table 11 wireless internet pricing 2010 - 2012
Table 12 GSM licences and operations in Sierra Leone
Table 13 Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2000 - 2004
Table 14 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2005 - 2014
Table 15 Celtel/Zain SL subscribers and market share 2003 - 2009
Table 16 Celtel/Zain SL ARPU 2002 - 2009
Table 17 Airtel 3G mobile broadband pricing 2012
Chart 1 Fixed lines in service and teledensity 2005 2014
Chart 2 Internet users and penetration rate 2005 2014
Chart 3 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2000 - 2014
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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