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Sierra Leone: Sierra leone Communication Profile


Having emerged from more than a decade of civil war, Sierra Leone since 2002 has enjoyed greater political stability. Economic growth has been rapid in recent years. The country’s traditional telecommunications infrastructure suffered considerable damage during the war years, and has since also suffered from neglect and underinvestment.

However, the mobile sector has experienced strong growth, largely reflecting the poor state of the fixed-line infrastructure, with competition between five GSM networks. Some consolidation has taken place, and in October 2014 Comium had its licence suspended following its continued inability to pay licence fees or creditors.

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. This development saw it become the country’s first 3G mobile network operator. Other 3G services based on HSPA technology were launched in 2011 and 2012.

The regulator has in recent years responded to customer complaints of poor service by obliging mobile operators to improve 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.

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.

Key developments:

Construction starts of 400km northern corridor fibre cable; government pledges national fibre infrastructure by 2017; Comium loses its licence after failing to address debt and network problems; Sierratel relaunches a fixed-telephony network following $30 million investment; privatisation of national telco Sierratel in progress; international gateway monopoly under review; first international fibre optic submarine cable lands; new mobile networks expected to launch following market consolidation; mobile quality of service and pricing under review; Thuraya signs agreement with Bharti Airtel to provide mobile satellite services; Airtel contracts Flexenclosure to build a combined data and telecom centre in Freetown; report includes recent market developments.

Estimated market penetration rates in Sierra Leone’s telecoms sector – end-2015 (e)

Market Penetration rate
Mobile 44%
Fixed 0.4%
Internet 1.8%


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