VOX POP: Citizens decry tariff increase on voice call, mobile data  

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By Yusufu S. Bangura

Sierra Leone’s leading mobile operators, Orange Sierra Leone, Africell and Qcell have all sharply increased tariffs on voice call and mobile data to over 150 percent.

Mobile network operators have argued that they were running at loss due to high exchange rate, increase in fuel price and expensive running cost, which were extremely threatening their businesses. They held series of consolations with civil society groups and the media before coming to conclusion to increase tariff.

The said development took place few days after the High Court ruled in favour of the companies in a case brought against them by the Native Consortium and Research Centre (NCRC) last week.

Just few months month ago, mobile operators together with the National Telecommunications Authority  (NATCA) made more than over 150 percent increment in all data prices, but the move was swiftly overturned following wide spread criticisms and concerns raised by citizens.

However, in this Vox Pop, Concord Times’ Yusufu S. Bangura on Friday took to the streets of Freetown to gauge the views of the people on the increment of mobile data tariff and voice calls.

Victor Nwafor, merchant in electrical appliances

As a businessman, the increase of data tariff is not good news for me because it would affect my business, more so when I have to communicate with my business partners before I record sales.

Before now, I was using NLe 15 to subscribe for a month, but now it NLe 35 which is an increment of over 100 percent, so I don’t know where we are heading for. I noticed that the increase of data tariff is as a result of the high exchange rate , so I am pleading with the government to rescue us on this because we can’t endure the burden.

Alpha Urma Jalloh, Businessman

It was a surprise for me to hear that data tariff has increased. This will affect me greatly and before the increase I used to buy NLe 10 credit to call my family in Guinea which last for 2-3 minutes, but now it will not even last for 30 seconds.

I want the mobile operators to please reduce the data tariff for us so that we can do our normal business.

Mohamed Conteh, Student at FBC

Amidst the economic hardship in the country, the increase in data tariff will make things harder for us. As a student, the little money receive from my parents is to buy food, pay for printing and attend to other needs and not for data which is now NLe35.

I think government has to assist us if not it will create serious problem for us. They need to go back to the drawing board and have dialogue with mobile operators to see how best they can advocate for us. In other countries their internet is fast but for us here it is slow and most time what we pay for  we do not receive.We are suffering for internet.

Marian Esther Keddy, student at IPAM

The increase in data tariff has affected me a lot as most of us depend on online materials in order to have note, do our research and study.I don’t even know if the student spark is still operating or maybe it is no longer working too.

As for me, I know that the government is aware of what is going on because mobile operators will not increase data without informing them, so they should have considered us. We do not have library that has adequate materials so majority of us use internet to find materials, therefore the government needs to help us.

Ibrahim Sorie Kamara, Student IPAM

I feel so bad this morning when someone informed me that there is huge increase in data tariff, because as a student I use my lunch to buy data just to access internet so I can do my assignment and to take online test.

We want government to intervene on our behalf so that mobile operators can reduce the cost for us. Government also needs to reduce taxes on these companies for us to have good data system.

Antonette Davies, Student at IPAM

The course we are pursuing requires internet which help us to have good materials online, but the increment in data tariff  will affect us greatly, more especial. We will not have access to materials.  Government needs to do the right thing by ensuring that mobile operators reduce the cost of data tariff.

Isatu Conteh, Student at IPAM

It was shocking news to me when I noticed that they have increased data tariff because I was not aware about it, and with the increment it will be difficult for me to do my assignment, research and access materials.

Things are hard for us in this country, so the institution responsible to regulate mobile companies needs to do something for us the students.

Clement Nchezor, Student at FBC

I felt bad when I realized that mobile companies have increased their data tariff and as a student it will affect me because I have to use internet to do my research online. It is not all of us that have money to buy huge chunk  of data. I want the government to see our constraints by reducing the taxes on the Mobile Network Operators, if not for anything but especially for us students. 

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