Sierra Leone Telco providers say they’ll sue, as government threatens ACE shutdown

Sierra Leone fibre optic launch SALCAB (February 2013)

Three telecommunications companies in Sierra Leone have threatened to sue the government over the cancellation of the original ACE underground cable arrangement. In a joint statement Afcom, Africell, and Limeline claim that upon assuming office, the current minister of Information Alpha Kanu, ‘informed service providers that they were no longer shareholders in SALCAB, removed them from SALCAB’s board and took over a bank account containing about USD700,000 of service provider funds.’

The joint statement also said: “The managing director of SALCAB has sent out demands for payment to each operator of USD31,000 per month for each STM-1. Under the signed agreements, each operator owns 5xSTM-1 and with a planned upgrade next year which will increase it to nearly 10xSTM-1 … clearly, the operators have no way of absorbing these exorbitant increases and the only result is that the internet would be more expensive for the people of Sierra Leone.”

“The initial agreements reportedly called for the operators to appoint members of SALCAB’s board of directors, who would take over the responsibility of managing the ACE landing station in Sierra Leone, including the payment of USD1 million for operational costs between January and July 2013.” The new minister has put an end to all of this.

The Deputy Minister of information in his response says that the agreement was cancelled to make SALCAB into a profit making entity. He further stated that contrary to claims that none of the other providers have paid the access fees that only Afcom, Africell, and Limeline have not met their dues.

If the appointment of a new minister means the dissolution of arrangements with investors, would that not be a deterrent to others who are looking to do business in Sierra Leone?

The Government launched SALCAB last year in February. It was supposed to have increased data speeds. Almost a year gone and no one has reported any difference in the state of the internet. Sierra Leone is still yet to meet international standards on call gateway liberalization.

In short, internet penetration in Sierra Leone is still just about 1%, and it is still very expensive.

Find out more about ACE from SwitSalone’s coverage of its launch here

Source: Teleography

  • Luke

    I left shortly after the supposed launch last year and wasn’t sure if the fiberoptic cable was actually in use yet. This article seems to make clear that it is not. If that is the case, this situation has gone beyond the point of being outrageously frustrating. I mean how &#$^*@ long can it take to hook this thing up and make it functional?

    Every day, websites are getting more and more bandwidth heavy as the price of bandwidth falls. American consumers get 50 megabits/sec for a fraction of what a Sierra Leonean pays for 0.128 megabits/sec. Even our neighbors in Conakry have pretty good internet.

    Does anyone in the government realize how far behind the times SL is with its internet? And how much it is holding the country back? A determined individual can dig their own water well, buy solar panels, and have water and light off-the-grid for quite a reasonable long-term cost, but unfortunately we do need the government to help us out to get internet at anything approaching affordability. Roads are getting built, village markets are getting solar lamp posts, the airport was renovated, but WHY OH WHY can we not load our GMail or make an intelligbile Skype call to the UK on the internet?

    Clearly, the only way for Airtel and Africell to provide decent internet would be to lay secret underground cables across the northern border where they can hook into the far superior Guinean network and resell the ample bandwidth the Guineans are not using to its desperate customers in the land of the corrupt Telco regulators.