Airtel Sierra Leone, a unit of Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, has announced the commercial launch of its HSPA network, enabling subscribers to enjoy new services such as videocalling, videostreaming and mobile broadband at maximum speeds of 14.4Mbps downstream and 5.7Mbps upstream. Services are currently available in the country’s main towns and cities, including Freetown, Makeni, Bo, Koidu, Kenema and Waterloo, via a network of 20 base stations. Airtel plans to increase the number of 3G cell sites to over 40 in the near future. The cellco – then known as Celtel Sierra Leone – launched services over a GSM-900 network in April 2000. It adopted the Zain brand in August 2008 before undergoing another name change to Airtel in late 2010, after Bharti Airtel finalised the acquisition of the African assets of Kuwait-based Zain Group in June 2010, in a deal valued at USD10.7 billion. Airtel is Sierra Leone’s third largest mobile operator by subscribers behind Lintel Sierra Leone (Africell) and Comium Sierra Leone, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, with an estimated 644,000 subscribers at the end of September 2011, giving it a market share of 23.7%.
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