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Stalled Sierra Leone operator Ambitel plans 2013 launch

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After a failed launch in 2008, Sierra Leone mobile operator Ambitel says it is ready to kick start operations this year after paying $500,000 to the country’s telecoms watchdog.

Ambitel, which is a subsidiary of Libya’s LAP Green Networks, says it has paid over the money to Sierra Leone regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (Natcom).

Parent company LAP Green purchased a controlling stake in Ambitel in 2007 in which it holds an 85% share.

The Sierra Leone based telecoms company planned to launch mobile services in the West African country in 2008. The national licence that Ambitel secured allows it to provide GSM, WiMax and ISP services.

However, the launch never happened.

But now chief executive officer of Ambitel Sierra Leone, John Weir, has been quoted in reports as saying plans are in place to ensure that all other relevant balance payments are made in order to launch the network.

"Ambitel will launch its services later this year, we are currently interviewing and hiring local staff with senior local managers already being identified," said Weir.

There is also no clear indication as to why Ambitel has delayed the launch of its mobile services in that country or as to why it had to pay the half a million dollar fee.

Analysts, however, says the amount paid could be the result of licence fee related issues.

“All I know is that Ambitel has been in conflict over money with the regulator and with their shareholder Lap Green. It seems they have resolved their financial disagreements now and are ready to be launch,” said independent telecoms analyst, Sadiq Malik.

“I believe they were pressurised by the regulator to launch or lose their licence,” he added.

Kalyan Medapati, senior analyst for global markets at Informa Telecoms and Media, has told ITWeb Africa that Ambitel made some investments in the roll-out of the network, but it never really took off.

“I think the payoff is probably to clear the hurdle to pay the way for a commercial roll-out now,” he said.

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