According to the Minister of Information and Communication, Sierra Leone’s international mobile gateway, which has been monopolized for many years to strengthen the national carrier Sierratel with a regular income stream that would revive its operations, will soon be liberalized.
Ibrahim Kargbo said that as the Africa Coast to Europe ACE fiber optic project is in its implementation phase and scheduled to commence operations in November 2011, the liberalization effort is a precondition for the landing of the fiber optic which allows for individual operation of the country’s international gateway by GSM operators.
After the launch of the Sierra Leone GSM Operators Association SLGSMOA in July 2008, the group claimed the individual operation of the country’s international gateway is a provision of their GSM licenses before it was monopolized in 2006. Hence, they called for a transparent review of its allocation but Sierratel’s monopoly has been extended ever since.
As a study by GSM Association in February 2007 shows that competition into the international gateways market can reduce call prices by up to 90 percent and double call volumes with Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt as case studies, some observers say the liberalization will be another remarkable stride in the history of Sierra Leone towards ICT development.
Since Nigeria liberalized its telecom sector in 2001, its market has been opened up to private investment and huge progress has been recorded in the industry. The Nigerian telecom industry witnessed an average growth rate of about 8 million lines per annum and by the end of October 2008, the country had attained about 59 million lines with a tele-density figure of 42 lines per 100 inhabitants by October 2008.