Senegal’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) released a statement on 21 March 2015, announcing that it has called a halt to the testing of 4G mobile technology in the country. Since April 2013, several of the country’s incumbent mobile operators have been trialling the advanced platform, having been granted temporary authorisation from the government as part of its two-year test programme. MINPOSTEL’s statement confirms that the test phase was expected to lead to an overall evaluation of the quality of service (QoS) of 4G, to be submitted by the participating players, from which the government would study how to formally license 4G concessions. However, Agence Ecofin notes that the ministry has called a halt to the tests and will instead seek ‘international expertise’ before moving forward with 4G. The MINPOSTEL statement reads that it intends to preserve the best interests of Senegal by bringing in outside help to ensure that the licensing of 4G – when it happens – gives the ‘best results’ to end users. In short, the ministry admitted that the ‘proposals received from domestic telecom operators were considered insufficient and do not take into account the concerns of the State of Senegal in terms of future investments’. In the wake of MINPOSTEL’s announcement, incumbent operator Sonatel (Orange) immediately informed its customers of the decision to terminate their access to high speed services.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in January this year Senegal’s telecoms regulator L’Autorite de Regulation des Telecoms et des Postes (ARTP) extended the testing phase of 4G services by a further three months until 31 March 2015. The trials were launched by Sonatel (Orange) in October 2013 and Tigo Senegal on 3 December last year, and the extension meant that users would be able to access free ultra-high speed mobile broadband for an additional twelve weeks or so. ARTP did not give any reason for the decision to extend the trial phase.
Orange Senegal launched its 4G network trials on the back of a USD240 million investment programme to expand and upgrade its overall network capacity. To date, it has deployed more than 40 4G sites in Dakar and Saly, and has plans to add more towns and cities in future. In its most recent expansion, the carrier added the city of Touba to its 4G footprint. Meanwhile, Tigo’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) trials are taking place in the capital Dakar, targeted around the areas of Yoff, Almades, Fann Residence, the University, Dakar-Plateau, Abdou Diouf International Conference Centre, Diamniadio and the city of Touba.