Today was another landmark day in Sierra Leone as the country hooked up to the  Africa to Europe (ACE ) cable ,which will  increase Internet speeds and enhance Internet usage in Africa.The ACE cable  will provide the nation  unlimited access to the World Wide Web and facilitate the downloading of videos , while also  enhancing  radio and television transmission in the country . It is the final step to the launching of the Fibre Optic Cable project , which started with the landing of the cables in Sierra Leone almost two years ago.

This is another major achievement by the Government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Sierra Leone joins other West African countries Senegal, The Gambia, Ghana,  Ivory Coast and Liberia who switched on their system last month. With today’s launching program, people in Sierra Leone can now subscribe with the companies licensed to operate in the country– Sierratel, Airtel, Africell, Commium, Afcom, limeline, Iptel, Nextgen, Teltak and Salcab. Internet and mobile phone services are now expected to be relatively cheaper.

FIBRECABLES

 

WE WILL BRING YOU FULL REPORTS OF THE LAUNCHING CEREMONY. MEANWHILE, HERE IS A SPEECH DELIVERED BY NATCOM CHAIRMAN & COMMISSIONER – SIRAY A. TIMBO AT THE OFFICIAL COMMISSIONING OF THE ACE FIBRE OPTIC CABLE  TODAY.

Your Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
Hon. Vice President,
Ministers and Honorable Members of Parliament,
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular core,
Heads of Government Institutions and Agencies,
Distinguished Representatives of the World Bank,
Commissioners, Management and Staff of NATCOM
Operators and Service Providers
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honor for me to be given this opportunity to make a statement at this event – celebrating the formal activation of the ACE fibre optic cable in Sierra Leone.

As the regulator, NATCOM prides itself in being a key player in promoting the growth and development of ICT’s in this country. However, of what good would the efforts of the Commission have been if this nation was not guided by the vision of His Excellency the President, for Sierra Leone to develop into a knowledge based information society with a vibrant ICT sector? About one and half years ago, on the 30th October 2011, a symbolic scene was witnessed when His Excellency pulled the fiber cable from the Atlantic Ocean.

As Chairman of NATCOM and a citizen, I am particularly pleased that all here present whether directly or indirectly are party to the amalgamation of the ideas for technological advancement to set the stage to improve the lives of every Sierra Leonean in this country. The era of broadband communication is born today wiring Sierra Leone for the 21st Century.

Your Excellency, distinguished guests what we have witnessed since the start of negotiation and planning of the WARCIP project, only confirms that the success of any national project should be built on robust partnership. Partnership that encompasses the public sector, private sector, communities and most important of all engages institutions such as the World Bank whose focus in this regards is to eliminate borders between Sierra Leone and the global communications market.

As regulators of this sector, NATCOM is here to license telecommunications operators and service providers to ensure expansion of investment and to oversee expansion in the telecommunications and ICT sector. Ii is also our duty to ensure fair competition, promote efficiency and protect the consumers.
NATCOM is a beneficiary of support for institutional development and capacity building under the WARCIP project.

We have worked with consultants in the open access regulations and are now working with specialist law firm for the review of the Telecommunications Act 2006 (as amended). A framework supporting open access to national and international infrastructure and services would soon be in place. Over eleven regulations ranging from computer misuse and cybercrime to spectrum management would be drafted. Clearly at the mention of cybercrime, the public would be reminded of the Commission’s sensitization on illegal set up and use of sim boxes.

The increase in the number of sim box gateways has caused and still causes this country tremendous loss in revenue. Illegal Operators, route voice traffic into and out of Sierra Leone without paying their regulatory dues and taxes. Sim box fraud has immensely contributed to the decline in quality of voice traffic.

In collaboration with the Sierra Leone Police and ONS, NATCOM has clamped down on a series of illegal operators and caused them to be brought to books. Our efforts continue in this stride unabated.
However, the Commission today is proud to be a part of history in the making.

Since the inception of this project to land the first ever fibre optic system in this country, NATCOM co-operated with the Ministry of Information and Communications so far as to the extent of seconding our staff to the Ministry. The commission has ensured that a proper license is put in place for the operations of SALCAB to ensure protection of investors, protection of consumer rights and healthy competition in the sector. A lot has been done, is being done and would continue to be done.

Let me on behalf of NATCOM dove my hat to His Excellency the President, under whose leadership the “never dreamt off” has been actualized and what seemed impossible made possible”. Ladies and gentlemen, the enabling environment for this and other developmental projects can only be attributed to the determination of His Excellency the President to take ICT’s to another level in this country.

All over Africa, businesses, governments, teachers, doctors, farmers, and fishermen, are using ICTs to communicate, share information, improve productivity and service delivery, find better prices, improve access to markets, and increase their bargaining power. The situation should be the same in Sierra Leone. As citizens of this country, our responsibility is to put to good use infrastructure services and facilities made available to us, but always doing so within the ambits of the law.

Of course the erstwhile Minister, Alhaji I.B Kargbo, being the driver then at the wheels, demonstrated nothing but hard work, and determination in seeing this project become a success and in the process setting a very high bar for others to follow. We have no doubt our new Minister, Hon. Alhaji Alpha Bakarr Sahid Kanu would set a higher bar and make the telecommunication services not only available nation-wide, but of high quality of service and one that is affordable.

NATCOM is committed to continue to work with all stakeholders in ensuring the fibre optic system and other ICT projects are recorded as successful. We look forward to seeing a rapid increase in internet use and what was once recorded as 0.8% internet penetration to go beyond expectations, at least 20% within the first year.

Your Excellency, Ministers, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, friends at home, the ACE submarine cable is here to bridge the digital divide. Operators have to ensure that services are available and affordable. Let us as users take full advantage of the benefits of this infrastructure to promote development in Sierra Leone.

I thank you for your attention.

 

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