The Chief Executive Officers of Airtel (Orange Sierra Leone) and Africell Sierra Leone, Sekou Drame and Shadi Al-Gerjawi respectively, yesterday granted a joint interview to the Global Times at the Airtel (Orange) Headquarters at Hill Station in Freetown, where they both appealed to subscribers to be patient with them as they have embarked on a massive overhaul of their separate networks in order to make voice and data communications easier for them (subscribers).
Mr. Drame said that, they intend to install thirty-three new sites across the country in order to be able to expand their network to every nook and cranny of the country. “We are investing US$33m (thirty three million United States dollars) towards our Network Improvement Plan as a first step”, Mr. Drame said.
The Airtel (Orange) CEO disclosed that, they are facing a lot of daunting challenges in the expansion of their network in some remote parts of the country. “In some areas, we have had to do the roads ourselves because our technicians have to be able to access those remote areas where our sites are located”, Mr. Drame said.
According to the Airtel (Orange) CEO, telecommunications is capital intensive. “We need money (huge sums of money) to overhaul our entire network because, telecommunications is a dynamic sector”, Mr. Drame said.
The CEO of Africell, Shadi Al-Gerjawi expressed similar sentiments and noted that, even though they are competitors (Africell and Airtel), they have a common approach to issues and share common challenges.
“We want to continue to operate in Sierra Leone but we need the support of everyone, especially the Government and people…We have huge challenges in terms of infrastructure…But we have not been deterred in our determination to expand our networks and improve on our quality of service”, Mr. Gerjawi said.
The Africell CEO admitted that, he was aware of the deadline set by NATCOM to improve on the quality of their services and expand their network. “What we are doing right now is going to places where we have never been to before…This is all part of our expansion drive…In some remote areas, we have had to co-locate with Airtel (Orange) because we want to serve the whole country”, the Africell CEO said.
Mr. Shadi Al-Gerjawi called on NATCOM, civil society members and subscribers to continue to exercise patience as they continue to install new sites and reach unserved areas in the country. “It is not an easy task…But we will get there…Airtel (Orange) have also embarked on an overhaul of their network…At the end of the day, we want to ensure that subscribers get value for money and our separate shareholders continue to invest more money so that, we can employ more Sierra Leoneans, pay more taxes to NRA and continue to execute our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to the Government and people of Sierra Leone.
The Chairman of NATCOM, Momoh Konte said in an interview with the Global Times yesterday that, mobile operators must continue to improve on their services because subscribers are grumbling about drop call and poor network.