Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sierra Leone - the regulator and the operators

Telecom regulator meets GSM operators, ISPs

Sierra Leone's National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) announced Friday that it plans to meet with sector players more regularly to discuss issues pertinent to the development and effective regulation of the country's telecom industry.

NATCOM officials made the decision at their first interactive meeting with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) operators and ISPs (Internet service providers) on July 3.

One ISP representative who spoke to IDG News Service under condition of anonymity, however, expressed displeasure with the meeting. Most participants were disgruntled after the meeting, as they began to realize that the regulatory body personnel is inexperienced in the telecom sector, he said.

"The commission is just looking for more means to make money without considering the plight of service providers," the representative said. "Ask any other participant at the meeting. It's like the commission was set up for political reasons and not for the actual regulation they claimed it was established for. They are not really competent."

The source noted that the most paramount issue to his company, as an ISP, is NATCOM's complaint against the use of VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol). He questioned the possibility of accessing the Internet without VoIP, as the two go hand in hand.

"The only way VoIP can be blocked is when the government installs a fiber optic to serve the Internet need of the nation, including ISPs, and that is not in place as of now," he said. "Instead of NATCOM [making the Internet] more accessible, they are making it more difficult. They are turning Internet use into a luxury instead of making it a necessity."

Though NATCOM recognizes the concerns and constraints of telecommunications operators and service providers, it will be guided in the discharge of its duties by the letter and spirit of the Telecommunications Act of 2006 and its amendments, a communiqué by the regulator stated.

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