Aminata Kane Ndiaye, Orange (SL) Limited CEO
Sierra Leone’s telecoms regulatory body, the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), has on Wednesday this week exposed Orange Sierra Leone’s illicit activities in the telecommunication arena.
The regulatory body penalized Orange (SL) Limited for illegally using the upper 6GHz microwave transmission frequency in their ring backhaul network. Following the Commission’s regulatory enforcement and compliance checks, Orange (SL) Limited was found causing harmful interference from Kamboi-Blama and Blama-Gbandi links, which adversely affected the operations and quality of service of rival service providers.
Discovering the hoarding of the radio frequency spectrum in 2019, the Commission, on 23rd January 2020, cancelled the assignment of eight (8) channels of the upper 6GHZ band to ORANGE (SL) Limited and reassigned four (4) each to AFRICELL (SL) Limited and QCELL (SL) Limited on 30th April 2020 within the range: TX-6800-7080 MHz and RX- 6460-6740 MHz. ORANGE (SL) Limited did not heed the cancellation of carriers in the upper 6GHz band but continued to use the aforesaid channels without recourse to the Commission for the last two (2) years, making it illegal and therefore attracting penalties.
Consequently, NATCOM has ordered Orange-SL to pay Two billion, six hundred and eighty-eight million (Le2,688,000,000) as two years’ spectrum fee for 280MHz bandwidth, and Ten billion, seven hundred and fifty-two million (Le10,752,000,000) as a penalty for the illegal use of eight (8) carriers of the upper 6GHz band for past two years.
The penalty and spectrum fees, according to NATCOM, should be paid within 30 days. And the regulator further ordered Orange-SL to relinquish the frequencies at the Kamboi-Blama link within seven (7) days and other links within two (2) weeks.
The Commission also ordered Orange-SL to furnish it with the coordinates and other data of all 6GHz sites within two (2) weeks; a joint verification exercise will be conducted to ascertain the relinquishment of frequencies in the Upper 6GHz band within three (3) weeks, and the cost of executing the verification shall be borne by ORANGE (SL) Limited.
In a separate development, the Gleaner has learnt that Orange-SL owed the government of Sierra Leone the sum of Ninety billion Leones (Le 90,000,000,000) as tax due. But the management of Orange-SL couldn’t be reached for comment.
NATCOM was established in 2006 by an Act of Parliament to regulate the Sierra Leone telecoms sector, protect consumer interest and ensure fair competition among service providers.