Sierra Leone GSM Operators Form Alliance

GSM operators in Sierra Leone have decided to coordinate and address common issues under one organization by forming the Sierra Leone GSM Operators Association (SLGSMOA).

This alliance, which includes Celtel, Comium, Africell and Tigo, was launched on Wednesday.

The association has been registered as a limited company, and it has the blessings of GSM Africa, says its first chairman, Africell CEO Robert Khoury.

He added that his group is willing to work with the GSM Association, a global trade group that aims to preserve, enhance and promote the interests of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) mobile operators.

"We intend to cultivate strong links with GSM Association in terms of updating them about our activities, securing their input when necessary and jointly holding certain events," Khoury said.

While emphasizing the significant contribution the mobile industry has made to improving the country's economic situation and how SLGSMOA intends to improve on that, Khoury disclosed that over the past year, the level of mobile penetration in Sierra Leone has increased from 10 percent to nearly 20 percent.

"Mobile operators now cover more than 80 percent of the populated areas," he said. "It is reported that increase in coverage of 10 percent boosts the GDP by 0.54 percent ... The launching of this association now provides us with an opportunity to further contribute to the development of not only the national and global wireless industry, but also to the development of the Sierra Leone economy."

Celtel Sierra Leone Managing Director Ted Sauti Phiri said the motive of forming the association was to ensure a proper working relationship among operators so that their subscribers will unanimously benefit from their products. It will also establish trust in the telecommunication system, he added.

"This association is formed in good faith so that a conducive working environment will be created among GSM operators in the country," he said. Phiri added that though the companies are separate entities, addressing the demand of their subscribers is their utmost priority.

The alliance is expected to draw on the market strength of its members to support the roll-out of unified content and access services, such as MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). Many users say they hope the alliance will reflect positively on the quality of services by these operators and possibly reduce their call rates.

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