Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Proliferation of Mobile Companies in Sierra Leone: Who is Telling the Truth?

Mobile phones are increasingly becoming if not the most important modern inventions but the fastest growing business in Africa. Today they have not only become fashionable but also served as working tools.

Their importance nightmares everyone wishing to grab a set because of the communication made simple and quick. The market has become so large that from chief executives, business women, footballers, school children, house wives and even the disabled without limbs have and use mobile phones to communicate or facilitate their operations or transactions. Journalists who in the past will toil long distances to cross check information with people now find it easy in cross checking those information from one town to the other or even abroad when a major scoop comes up or a breaking story is being investigated. Taxi drivers communicate to pick up passengers from the airport to the next helipad and know when the last ferry will leave for the Targrin Landings enroute to Lungi Airport through mobile phone communication exchange. The list of users goes on and on with each an everyone telling his or her own story while the companies steal away the millions of Leones profits generated out of the sale of top-cards for calls.

But despite the huge appreciable turn-over the mobile phone trade brings, the question is still being asked, are we all getting the same maximum benefit from the use of mobile phones?

The obvious answer is that not a single person currently subscribed to the five mobile phone networks in Sierra Leone that include CELTEL, TIGO, COMIUM, AFRICEL and DATATEL has applauded the services they are being provided.

It is mind boggling to know that up till now phone users in the country still continue to have problems with the services rendered by their service providers.

The problem is not so much with the analogue providers but the headache of GSM service providers encountered by mobile phone users. All excuses have been provided by both sides on the difficulties they faced and each side has its argument and exit point.

The service providers have mostly blamed SIERRATEL for the poor reception of interconnectivity while on the other hand SIERRATEL would also blame the service providers for over subscription of their switch boards thus making it difficult for calls to go through.

Be it as it may, no one knows is telling us the truth between the service providers and SIERRATEL which holds the international gateway. The government has often tried to mediate in between the two groups in order to find amicable settlement but has failed.

Happily enough, however, the government recently set up the Sierra Leone Telecommunication Commission which now regulates all the GSM frequencies of mobile phone companies in Sierra Leone for equal distribution to all the GSM operators in the country among its functions.

Before now, it is alleged that SIERRATEL which was holding on to the frequencies, made it difficult for the providers to provide satisfactory service.

Whether this is true or not, the fact still remains that somebody is not telling the users of cell phones in the country the truth. Since the establishment of the commission, the frequencies were to be shared equally amongst the service providers at no cost.

With its setting, many people who had dreamt of breathing a sigh of relief were surprisingly caught in shock at the situation that is gradually becoming more deplorable while the commission is busy collecting money for the government.

Today, to make a call or receive one on a cell phone is more difficult than previously before the telecoms agreement was signed.

The service providers no longer feel that it is their obligations to provide satisfactory services to their subscribers.

All of them are treating their customers with contempt as even the regulatory body; the Sierra Leone Telecommunication Commission is bothered about what is going on. Definitely somebody is not telling us the truth that is cheating us. For how long shall we be treated this way by the mobile service providers?

We need explanation and it must come soonest otherwise SLTCC will always be seen as a dog that cannot bark let alone bite.

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