Sierra Leone has reduced the wholesale cost of its internet bandwidth by almost 50%, according to Ismael Kebbay, Managing Director of Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB) which runs the country's fibre optic infrastructure.
Kebbay mentioned a 48% bandwidth cost reduction for IP transit and lease circuit while launching the company's new national fibre bundle.
The reduction and the new bundle, which will enable users in other cities to access service quality similar to what's obtainable at the cable landing station in the capital, Freetown, comes after a supposed re-engineering of the submarine and terrestrial infrastructure.
The senior executive said the company will upgrade the country's data capacity from 83G to 260G to enhance transmission and distribution of data for clients through direct connection of their backhaul base stations to the fibre cable.
The reduction is expected to significantly lower the cost of internet access, though there is uncertainty over the quality of the connectivity.
The communications sector, incorporating telecoms, contributes 3.8% towards Sierra Leone's GDP.
According to SALCAB, of the 4.2 million telecoms service users in Sierra Leone, voice-related products account for 65% of revenue in the sector while Internet penetration is at 13% - broadband (2%) and mobile data via phones and dongles (11%).
Kebbay said most of the registered subscribers are multi-SIM users who yield US$3 ARPU/month. He cited existing telcos' current distribution models - which rely on microwave as the primary backhaul - as a major challenge to market expansion and deprives 25% of the active population (about 1.7 million people)of access to either voice or internet service.
A weak rural population cluster, low revenue per user and low digital literacy rate represent ongoing challenges for telcos.
SALCAB is government-owned but incorporated as a limited liability company to regulate wholesale bandwidth and other related VAS providers in the country. It is the main partner of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable in Sierra Leone.