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ARTP confirms renewal of Sonatel licences; deal includes 4G concession

23 Jun 2016

Senegal’s industry watchdog, the Regulation Authority of Post and Telecoms (Autorite de Regulation des Telecoms et des Postes, ARTP), has confirmed that it has renewed the operating licences of state-owned fixed and mobile operator Sonatel, for a total consideration of XOF100 billion (USD171 million), including the ‘extension of its scope’ to offer 4G.ARTP said that under Article 23 of Law No. 2011-01 of 24 February 2011 on Telecommunications Code, it is renewing the operating concessions of the telco for fixed, 2G and 3G services for a period of 17 years – starting 8 August 2017 – while also licensing mobile arm Orange to offer 4G LTE for a similar period, from the date of the award. According to the regulator, Sonatel will pay XOF32 billion for the 4G licence which comprises 10MHz of spectrum at 1800MHz and 10MHz in the 800MHz band. The operator is obliged to begin marketing 4G within two months of the frequency assignment date – i.e. August. Sonatel (Orange) is required to provide coverage of 70% in five years (up from a 65% stipulation previously) and 85% to 90% in ten years. The ARTP also notes that it has removed rights to use the 700MHz band and trimmed the duration of the operating licence from the original 20-year term it had proposed.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in January 2016 the ARTP announced that the call for applications for fourth-generation mobile licences had received no bids from the three incumbents – the other two being Tigo, a unit of Millicom International Cellular (MIC), and Sudatel’s Expresso Telecom – suggesting they may have boycotted the process over a disagreement on the licence fee. With the regulator refusing to revise its reserve price of XOF30 billion for the 20-year concessions, the ARTP confirmed that on 17 December 2015 it received ‘in open violation of the Public Procurement Code and the consultation regulations (Article 3.4 and Article 7.14 of the Regulations of Call for Candidacy) … a signed letter [from the] three operators to report their concern about the licence reserve price’. At the time, ARTP director Abdou Karim Sall reiterated that the watchdog considered the licence fee to be appropriate, adding that it was set as a result of ‘a benchmark of over 20 countries in the world, taking into account the quality and quantity of available frequency bands (700MHz, 800MHz and 1800MHz), the population, income of the telecom market in Senegal and obligations of the licence for 4G coverage.

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