According to a report on the largest telecommunications research site on the internet BuddeCom, The Gambia’s mobile market penetration is well above the African average as at end 2014. This is in recognition of the quantum leap The Gambia has taken under the APRC government, from suffering chronic backwardness in the past to enjoying progressive successes in the present.
As the country prepares to celebrate 22 years of uninterrupted and progressive development, The Gambia’s biggest, widely circulated and most authoritative newspaper, Daily Observer, went out and about to assess the developments that have taken place under the various sectors of the government. In this write up we look at the telecommunication sector.
The telecommunication sector has seen the birth of four GSM service providers in the country – Gamcel, Africell, Comium and Qcell. This has been hailed as the beginning of the revolutionilisation of not only the GSM industry, but also the business and other sectors the technology is connected with.
Experts said there are over 900,000 mobile phones in use; quite an impressive number for a country of this size in terms of population. Now even in the farthest and remotest villages in The Gambia, one can communicate with his/her relatives and love ones anywhere in the world with his/her cell phone using any social media network.
The following statements are account of people who spoke to the Daily Observer in rural Gambia during our countrywide coverage assessing the impact of the July 22nd Revolution on the lives of Gambian people with focus on the communications sector.
Muhammado Susso of Tambasansang in the URR recounted those difficult years when one communicating with their relatives in the Kombos, describing it as a nightmare.
Alhagie Bojang, a driver, said the Revolution has ushered in much transformation in the communications sector, while Satala Bah, a Guinean based in The Gambia said mobile communication in The Gambia is very good.
Ousman Sidibeh, a dealer in mobile accessories in Jarra Soma said the Revolution has brought about equal opportunities for all irrespective of location. According to him, his business is booming as a result of the advancement in the communications sector.
Imam Nfansu Colley of Kiang Kaiaf acknowledged that communication is more advance today than ever. “I could remember those days when one had to travel all the way to Soma to make a phone call but today that is history.”
Another cell phone user in Janjangbureh, Kebba Mbenga said there is no doubt that the advent of GSM companies in the country has registered remarkable achievements, noting that they are also contributing immensely to the socio-economic development of the people.
“Already there are numerous indications that thanks to this development, the living standards of a number of families have been uplifted, with their impact having a spillover effects on other sectors. This is made all possible by the Second Republic.”
Before the advent of the July 22nd Revolution, Gamtel was the only licensed fixed line operator in the country, which commenced business in April 1984. It took over the operations of The Gambia Telecommunications Department and Cable & Wireless PLC. It began operations with about 2,400 customers, most of who lived in the capital Banjul and its surroundings. When it started operations, it only had a few analogue Strowger exchanges for switching and a few analogue transmission links to connect the limited rural towns that had some service. It also had a Standard Earth Station, built in 1979, to connect to the outside world, mainly the United Kingdom in those days.
In fact, between 1984 and 1986, it acquired its first digital exchange, an Alcatel E10B equipped for 5000 lines under The Greater Banjul Area Telecommunications Project (BATP), also known as Phase I. The project was fully financed by Caisse Centrale de Co-operation Economique de France (CCCE). It included the construction of a 4,000 line local network and offered customers International Direct Dialing (IDD) for the first time.
Between 1988 and 1990, Phase II of The Urban Telecommunications Project was implemented, adding 8,000 more lines to the network and extending service to the major towns of Yundum and Brikama, some 18-25 km outside the capital, Banjul.
Between 1991 and 1993, Phase III was implemented and Gamtel’s customer base increased to 16,000. A Multi-Access Radio Telephone (IRT 2000) rural network was also deployed in the Upper River Region.
To connect this rural network to the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) network, a 400 km fibre-optic cable using PDH technology was laid between Serrekunda and Basse. This allowed for 18 major towns on the route of the fibre to be provided with limited service.
A digital Telex switch was commissioned in 1990 and the company financed and commissioned its first major project; an analogue cellular mobile service in 1992. This remained in service until 2001, when the company commissioned a subsidiary GSM mobile firm, called Gamcel, following its award of a license to operate a GSM mobile service in 2000 by the Second Republic.
From 1993 to date, Gamtel Gambia Ltd. continued to steadily increase the size of its network as well as its coverage. It financed and commissioned a Paging service, Tamanding, in 1995 and an Internet Gateway, co-sponsored by the UNDP under its Internet Initiative for Africa (IIA). During the same period, Gamtel was tasked by the APRC government to provide a nationwide television and radio service (GRTS). By so doing, Gambians had their first nationwide TV and Radio. Prepaid calling cards and other value-added services were also provided to customers.
The operator has a fixed line customer base of over 41,000 served by two digital Alcatel switches both of which handle national and international calls. Its national transmission backbone that covers over 70% of The Gambia is 100% digital mostly using fibre-optic cables and SDH technology. There is access to telephone services within eight km of anywhere one finds him/herself in the country.
There is nationwide access to the Internet, and ISDN is offered to customers on demand. Its subsidiary GSM mobile operator, Gamcel that began operations on May 25, 2001 now has a customer base of over 65,000 most of whom are prepaid customers. At present, it has 30 base stations throughout the country, providing coverage for more than 70% of the geographical area of the country.
by Musa Ndow
Additional Source: BuddeCOM