New law set to liberalise Gambian telecoms sector

17 Feb 2006

Gambia is anticipating major changes in its telecoms market this year, including the end of the fixed line monopoly of state-owned telco GamTel, with the arrival of a new Telecoms Bill which is expected to be passed by parliament by the end of March. allAfrica.com reports that the bill includes guidelines for spectrum management, interconnection issues, the setting up of a universal access fund, the introduction of VoIP regulations and a technology-neutral licensing regime.

The government has established an independent industry watchdog to replace GamTel as the telecoms regulator. The Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) was created by the PURA Act 2001, although it is not yet operational. In January 2005 the government said the new body would be up and running by the following month, but over a year later it still lacks the legislation to give it regulatory power in the sector. The Telecoms Bill, once passed, will finally hand PURA the authority to act, giving it the responsibility of settling interconnection disputes, regulating prices and overseeing licensing.

The government says it has also decided to license a second international gateway operator, Gamsat, owned by local businessman Amadou Samba. In the mobile market, Africell is currently the sole challenger to GamTel’s wireless subsidiary Gamcel, but a third operator has recently been granted a licence to enter the sector – West Coast Investment, also headed by Samba and backed by Nigerian investors. The ISP market is open to competition and has four players – QuantumNet, GamTel, Netpage and Airtip.