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Basics Edit

Sierra Leone is a country in West Africa with a population of 7 million people. Having emerged from more than a decade of civil war, Sierra Leone since 2002 has enjoyed greater political stability. The exceptional economic growth seen in 2012/3 has slowed but remains strong, and this has encouraged international companies to invest in the country.

Nevertheless, the telecommunications infrastructure is only gradually recovering from the destruction caused during the war years, and the theft of equipment and cabling is compounded by neglect, mismanagement and underinvestment. The telecom regulator Natcom continues with its efforts to improve the market, including the liberalisation of the international gateway and regulator checks on quality of services. It has not shied from fining operators for providing poor services, or for promoting packages deemed to be disadvantageous to consumers.

Providers Edit

  • Orange Sierra Leone (previously Airtel)
  • Africell
  • Smart mobile (in Freetown only)
  • Sierratel (CDMA and 4G-only)
  • QCell (about to be launched soon)

The government-owned Sierratel is not mentioned anymore as it has a small footprint and very unreliable service. Furthermore its based on CDMA, which is not compatible to most GSM devices. In 2018 it started the first 4G/LTE network in Freetown and other cities.

Two further providers closed down in the last years: Comium's license was revoked in October 2014, while managers of Natcom have been sacked in 2015 and GreenN GSM Ambitel (LapGreen) licence was revoked in September 2014. On the other hand Gambian mobile operator QCell is planning to launch mobile services in Sierra Leone in 2018, after it secured an operating concession from Natcom.

Generally Orange is seen as the most reliable provider followed by Africell that is preferred by many locals for its lower prices. All providers have quality of service issues. In 2017 Natcom fined more than US$ 1 million to the three providers for its bad service and underpreforming certain indicators.

The situation is even worse with the power supply. The country suffers from frequent and long power blackouts. So better use the time when power is on to load your devices and think of bringing a surge protector, if you use susceptible hardware.

2G/GSM is on 900 MHz up to EDGE speed, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz. There is no 4G/LTE so far, but providers are preparing for a launch.

Prices Edit

Sierra Leone depended entirely on satellites for international connections until 2013 when it was connected to the ACE submarine cable. This has considerably improved bandwidth capabilities and has resulted in a welcome drop in the price of broadband. At the end of 2015 the 600 km national backbone network was completed, which also links the country to Liberia and Guinea.

New SIM cards cost around Le 20,000 or less. Mini and micro SIM cards are widely available, nanos may have to be cut to size.

Prices are given in the local currency called leone (Le, SLL). You should only take them as a rough guideline as the country faces an inflation rate of around 19% in 2017. So some prices may have been raised in the meantime.

SIM cards have to be registered officially on your name. This is done in the provider's store by showing your passport. On the streets many SIM cards are sold registered on someone else.

Orange Sierra Leone (formerly Airtel) Edit

Orange UK

new brand

French Orange acquired the network from Indian Bharti Airtel in 2016 with its 1.5 million subscribers. From October 2017 it was rebranded to Orange and the old Airtel name dropped.

Airtel, now called Orange, had a patchy coverage in 2G, with 3G mostly in larger towns. They have started a modernisation and expansion plan to enhance the reliability, coverage and quality of the network. Since the acquisition, US$ 33 million has been invested for that purpose with 30 new radio sites on air and over half of the entire mobile network upgraded.

Airtel

old brand

Availability Edit

A prepaid SIM can be bought in one of their stores (list) for around Le 20,000. To register your SIM card bring along with an official ID card and registration is free.

Top-up by refill cards sold all over: *136*<voucher PIN>#.

Check number by *266#, check balance by *137#

Data feature packages Edit

Their data packages are called "Boku boku browsing":

Data Time Price
3 MB 1 day Le 450
10 MB 1 day Le 1,400
50 MB 1 day Le 4,500
150 MB 1 day Le 10,000
75 MB 7 days Le 8,400
200 MB 7 days Le 15,000
500 MB 7 days Le 35,000
250 MB 30 days Le 24,000
1 GB 30 days Le 60,000
3 GB 30 days Le 125,000

Activate by *800#, check data balance by *137*8#.

For Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp only they offer these packages:

  • for 1 day: Le 1500
  • for 7 days: Le 7500
  • for 30 days: Le 25500

More information

Africell Edit

Africellx

Africell expanded its operations to Sierra Leone in 2005. In 2009, Africell completed the acquisition of Tigo The acquisition and ensuing merger of the two entities further consolidated the company's leading market share of 2/3 of the total GSM telephone market. Their network acquired 3.4 million subscribers by the end of 2016. It's considered the people's network with lower coverage and speed than Orange/Airtel.

Availability Edit

A prepaid SIM can be bought in one of their stores (list) for around Le 20,000. To register your SIM card bring along with an official ID card and registration is free.

Data feature packages Edit

These new data packages were released in September 2017:

Data Time Price
3 MB 1 day Le 400
15 MB 3 days Le 2,000
35 MB 3 days Le 4,250
75 MB 10 days Le 8,250
250 MB 30 days Le 23,000
750 MB 30 days Le 45,000
3 GB 45 days Le 120,000
5 GB 60 days Le 200,000
10 GB 90 days Le 400,000

To activate dial *113# and follow instructions.

More information Edit

Smart mobile Edit

Smart sl

Smart mobile launched 2014 their 2G/3G network. It's limited to Freetown only (coverage map) and therefore can't be recommended for travelling. But if you need stationary data in the capital, it can be an cheap option.

Availability Edit

Smart mobile is selling their SIM cards for only LE 2,000 with an equal preloaded credit amount in their stores (list). Dial 222 to activate your Smart Mobile number.

To top-up buy Smart scratch cards and enter *124*<voucher PIN>#.

Check your balance by *125#.

Data feature packages Edit

Default rate outside packages is Le 275 per MB.

These packages can be added:

Data Time Price Activation
6 MB 3 days Le 1,200 6MB
20 MB 7 days Le 4,000 20MB
100 MB 14 days Le 16,000 100MB
500 MB 14 days Le 70,000 500MB
1 GB 30 days Le 100,000 1GB
2 GB 30 days Le 160,000 2GB
10 GB 30 days Le 550,000 10GB

For activation text code to 333. Check data balance by *131#

More info Edit