Sierratel gets US$16.6 million Chinese loan to roll-out a mobile operation
Acting Director of Commercial Service of Sierra Leone’s telco incumbent Sierratel Julius has confirmed that the government-owned institution took delivery of US$16.6 million worth of equipment to be paid for by a Chinese Government loan. The Sierratel Wireless Project will use equipment supplied by Huawei Technologies. Like Telecom Namibia and Telkom Kenya, it seems to be seeking to slip by a new mobile operation on the basis of offering a CDMA fixed wireless service.
According to Kamara:"For the first time, (Sierra Leonean’s) own telecom company will give them the mobility -to go to places- with their phones and at the same time enjoy high speed broad band internet facility." He said the initial capacity would cope with 100,000 subscribers but it could go up to one million subscribers later.
"The Sierratel Wireless Project would kick start targeting 100,000 subscribers but there is the possibility of expanding it to cover about a million users later," he said. "We can't sit down and allow our network to be congested." According to Kamara, the eight containers that were cleared at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay contained wireless switch, microwave backbone, base stations and supporting equipment for nationwide operation.
He said the project is aimed at complement existing fixed line telephones particularly in areas where Sierratel has no fixed network coverage such as district headquarters and mining areas like Kono, Pepel, Massama, Rutile etc.
"It would be their first choice. We are going to give our customers the opportunity to move about to do their daily activities with our wireless handsets." He also allayed fears that the cost of acquiring and maintaining this service would be expensive by saying that it would be slashed for users. "All will be at land line prices. We'll ensure that our prices are lower than other available networks in the country. Though we appreciate that other networks are here and have been doing well, we have to work on that so as to beat them in pricing," he said. The project is slated to be fully operational by September but Kamara stated that it could be ready at the end of July.