The Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB) was created by an Act of Parliament in 2012 with support from the World Bank to land and manage the fiber optic submarine cable through the Africa Coast to Europe terrestrial infrastructure with state-of-the- art facilities at the submarine fibre optic cable landing station in Freetown and network operations centre in Jui and other ADM stations across the country.
With the creation of SALCAB, it was expected that Mobile phone companies and other internet service providers should have upgraded their systems with the new technology and equipment to be able to make maximum use of the information super highway, the fibre optic infrastructure that has been provided by government to boost the telecommunications industry and to provide efficient, effective and reliable service for the people to make their life better. SALCAB sells bandwidth internet to all mobile network operators and internet service providers such as Afcom, Onlime and Diakem among others. It is important to emphasize that all internet connectivity in Sierra Leone is powered by SALCAB via the Fibre. But investigation revealed that as at now, the facilities are underutilized especially with mobile phone companies shying away. The importance and benefits SALCAB provides to people are enormous.
Therefore, MNOs and ISPs are encouraged to invest in new technology to link up with the fibre for cheaper voice and data calls because it creates opportunities for learning, businesses and agricultural productivity.
Fibre optic is preferred to satellite because fibre travels through the speed of light whilst satellite is travels through waves which is easily affected by weather.
Investigation revealed that SALCAB supports various MDAs in government with internet connectivity to fast-track government works. Schools and universities are about to be connected free of cost by SALCAB with support from the World Bank to be followed by hospitals.
It is important to note that SALCAB collects fees from service providers in Sierra Leone and in turn pays ACE for the use of the cable system. The SALCAB programme, according to research done, charges Internet Service Providers US$200 per 1Mbps, an amount far less than the US$2, 000 per 1Mbps they were paying for using satellite transmission and also the lowest fee in West Africa.
While Sierra Leone is charging US$200 per 1 Mbps, Liberia is charging US$500 per 1 Mpbs. Guinea and Guinea Bissau are charging between US$300 to US$400 while Ghana is charging US$230 per 1 Mpbs.
Taking a close look at the charges highlighted, one will agree that Sierra Leone is charging the lowest on Mpbs as compared to other countries in West Africa.
One thing the telecoms regulatory body the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) should do now is to support SALCAB by urging internet service providers and mobile phone operators to make good use of this facility so that the people of Sierra Leone will benefit more. SALCAB has done a lot but needs the support of other stakeholders including NATCOM so that Sierra Leoneans will benefit at a reasonable and affordable cost.