The Regulation Authority of Post and Telecoms (Autorite de Regulation des Telecoms et des Postes, ARTP) has launched a tender for the award of fourth-generation mobile licences in Senegal. In a state radio broadcast yesterday, ARTP director Adbou Karim Sall confirmed that the country has decided to launch the process, although he stopped short of providing a timeframe for the award or indeed the likely cost of the concessions.
According to the ARTP’s website, the initial notice for applications covers the licensing and frequency allocation process for the use of 4G mobile technologies in Senegal as it continues efforts to liberalise and develop the domestic market. The tender notice confirms that the process is only open to the incumbent cellcos – Orange, Tigo and Expresso Telecom (Senegal) – as it is limited to Senegalese registered companies already holding a licence for the operation of public mobile network services at the date of the filing of the 4G application. The document includes three sections covering the regulation of candidates, licensing specifications and the proposed licensing model outlining the terms and conditions between the licensor and licensee. Application documents can be purchased for a non-refundable fee of XOF2 million (USD3,272), prior to the deadline of 18 January 2016. Bids will be opened immediately afterwards in the presence of candidates’ representatives at the headquarters of the ARTP, it says.
The tender announcement marks another twist in the ongoing saga of Senegal’s off and on 4G launch plan. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, since April 2013 several of the country’s incumbent mobile operators had been trialling the advanced platform, having been granted temporary authorisation from the government as part of its two-year test programme. The ARTP extended the testing phase of 4G services by a further three months, in January 2015, but in March this year the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MINPOSTEL) announced that it had called a halt to the testing of 4G mobile technology in the country, and would instead seek ‘international expertise’ before moving forward with 4G. At the time, MINPOSTEL said it intended 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 was admitting that the ‘proposals received from domestic telecom operators were insufficient and did not take into account the concerns of the State of Senegal in terms of future investments’. In the wake of MINPOSTEL’s announcement, Orange Senegal, for one, immediately informed its customers of the decision to terminate their access to ultra-high speed services. Tigo had initiated its own 4G trial in December 2014, while Expresso is the only company yet to launch a 4G pilot.