3G mobile broadband devices carry 70% of all internet connections in Senegal
Senegal’s economy has been growing at 5% per annum on average since the mid 1990s and has only moderately been affected by the global economic crisis. Representing around 6% of the country’s GDP, the telecom sector is dominated by publicly listed Sonatel, the highly profitable national telco which is now operating under France Telecom’s Orange brand following its partial privatisation in 1997. The government is planning to sell part of its remaining stake to other investors.
Sonatel has one of the most efficient telecom networks in West Africa, offering some of the lowest retail and wholesale prices in the region, although they are still high by global standards. The company is also the market leader in the mobile sector which it has shared with Millicom’s Sentel GSM (later rebranded Tigo) since 1999.
Competition in the fixed-line sector was introduced when Sudan’s Sudatel launched as the second national operator (SNO) in 2009 under the name Expresso. Its licence also includes the country’s third mobile concession. The new entrant initially chose CDMA2000 technology to serve both market segments but switched to GSM technology in 2010, including 3G/HSPA mobile broadband.
However, the licensing of new operators has not always been transparent in Senegal. Both Sentel’s and Sudatel’s licences were awarded under controversial circumstances. Sentel settled a four-year licence dispute with the government in August 2012.
Although mobile market penetration is approaching the 100% mark, the average revenue per user in Senegal is relatively high. A wide range of value-added services is available to subscribers, including mobile broadband Internet access which is rapidly taking market share from fixed-line DSL services.
Development of the Internet market has been hampered by Sonatel’s monopolistic pricing of bandwidth on the only high-capacity international submarine fibre optic cable serving the country until 2007. Despite this, broadband services in Senegal are relatively advanced, including broadband TV (IPTV) and converged triple-play services. Sonatel has progressively reduced its prices following the arrival of several competing international fibre optic submarine cables.