By NATCOM Communications Unit
Town hall meeting, cross section of participants at Segbwema Community Centre
Staff of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), have administered over five hundred questionnaires to residents in Kenema, Kailahun, Bombali and Tonkolili districts, to assess the perceptions of consumers with respect to services provided by mobile network operators (MNOs).
The survey was conducted between the 21st to 23rd June 2019 in the eastern region towns of Kenema, Kailahun, Daru, Pendembu and Segbewama, and north-eastern towns of Makeni, Magburaka, Masingbi, Matotoka and Makalie.
After the survey exercise, NATCOM officials held town hall meetings in Magburaka and Segbewama to sound views of consumers on what their perceptions were about the quality of service and quality of experience provided by the MNOs.
At the Segbewama Community Centre, NATCOM’s Director of Corporate and Industry Affairs, Abdul Ben-Foday, thanked the audience for coming out in huge numbers to witness the event.
He described the objective of the survey as one geared towards identifying the problems and challenges experienced by consumers, using services provided by MNOs.
Director Ben-Foday further noted that the NATCOM had adopted a consumer-centric approach aiming at addressing the problems of low internet penetration, poor quality of service and the provision of services to unserved and underserved areas.
Brima Ronnie Kargbo, NATCOM’S Director of Human Resources, conveyed greetings from the Minster of Information and Communications, Director-General and Deputy Director-General of NATCOM, to the people of Segbwema.
He spoke about government’s commitment to ensure accessibility and affordability of communication services across the country.
“In a bid to see a reduction in tariff, the Government through the Ministry of Information and Communications has decided to waive US$2 Cent from what mobile operators should pay to NATCOM,” Ronnie disclosed.
Representing Kailahun District Council, Councillor Joseph Karjue of Ward 22, thanked NATCOM for holding the town hall meeting in Segbewama.
Councillor Karjue noted that the meeting would give residents of the town an ideal opportunity to share with the Commission some of their challenges in using mobile services.
The councillor further disclosed that an entire chiefdom named ‘Tondola’ is without network coverage, appealing to NATCOM to consider giving that to chiefdom.
Similar sentiments were expressed by members of the audience when they were asked to make their contributions. They mentioned about the problems of poor internet services, the frequent scarcity of top up cards and the existence of huge areas in some chiefdoms without mobile network coverage.
Ing. Melvin King of NATCOM addressed some of the concerns raised by the participants especially those related to quality of service, unsolicited text messages and promotions offered by operators. He informed the gathering about efforts of the Commission to monitor the quality of services of MNOs.
Osman Rashid Koroma, Officer Commanding (OC) of Operation Support Division (OSD) Division in Segbewama, called on residents of the town to register their SIM cards, adding that the registration of SIM cards will help security apparatus to be more efficient in their fight against crime.
Speaking on behalf of the Paramount Chief of Segbewama, Chief Mustapha Brima welcomed the Commission and conveyed the paramount chief’s approval for event to be held in the town. He went on to catalogue names of towns including Gendema, Gandorhun and Njeihundola as areas without mobile network coverage.
At the Tonkolili District Council Hall, Deputy Chairman, Tonkolili District Council, Alimamy Samuel Kamara, said it was a welcoming initiative to ask people about what are their experiences with regards MNOs’ operations.
He said there are some places that people have to move from one place to another or climb trees to seek network coverage.
“NATCOM’s grassroots approach is very good. We have confident over the manner at which this new set of administrators at NATCOM are reaching the consumers,” he said.
Pa Alimamy Koroma, Chiefdom Speaker of Kholifa Rowala chiefdom, said seeking the concerns of people about the quality of service rendered by MNOs, was a laudable initiative.
He added that there are challenges with regards network coverage and NATCOM must ensure that these challenges are addressed.
Ibrahim Allen Sowa, Tonkolili District Council’s Development and Planning Officer, said the council is currently facing lots of challenges with regards the quality of service rendered by MNOs but NATCOM’s meeting with them was an assurance that things will soon get better.
He called on NATCOM to ensure that there is a universal tariff for all the MNOs so that the consumers would not feel cheated.
Sahr Sewa, NATCOM’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, said they allocate frequency and network code, monitor telecoms operators, regulate them and set training standards for MNOs’ staff.
“When we started telecoms business in Sierra Leone, we started with 2G for internet services but now it’s 4G and because of the revolution, there are some challenges along the way, which NATCOM is working hard to address,” he said.
Director Sewa said NATCOM has initiated a ‘One Area Network’, dubbed the ‘free international roaming’, with neighbouring countries-Guinea and Liberia.
Smart I.B. Kokofele, Deputy Director of Corporate and Industry Affairs, who chaired the meeting, said for three consecutive days, NATCOM’s staff have had interactions with the people and their concerns about the MNOs were expressed.
“As regulators, we create the platform for the issuance of licenses for the setting up of television and radio stations, internet and telecommunications companies, and also regulate them,” he said.
Maruff Barrie, NATCOM’S Engineer, said it is important to register the subscriber identification module (sim) cards so as to minimise cybercrime.
He noted that most embassies, especially United States of America and British High Commission, demand for call-logs as a requirement for the issuance of travelling documents.
Alfred Kobba, Media and Public Relations of NATCOM, said a MNO is someone who is given a mandate by NATCOM to operate a telecommunications company.
He said in order to ensure that there is calmness between the MNOs and consumers, NATCOM has been playing a leading role to create a fair playing field for all to benefit.
NATCOM in recent months has intensified its outreach engagements across the country. The just concluded survey was conducted following the completion of the recent ‘One Area Network Sensitization campaigned’ which was primarily organized to educate consumers in frontier towns between Sierra Leone and Guinea and Sierra Leone and Liberia on the free roaming arrangement.
NATCOM staff posed for a group photo with some residents of Tonkolili district after the town hall meeting