Senegal looks to a fourth telco

Senegal looks to a fourth telco.

South Korean telco SK Telecom and CKG Middle East JV bids for license.

A fourth telecom operator could emerge within the Senegalese telecoms market if a joint offer of CFA 100 billion francs (about US$170 million) for a license to operate, made by South Korean telco SK Telecom and CKG Group Middle East, is approved.

The new offer is for a universal licence which will enable the investors to operate 4G service in the West African country.

According to its corporate website CKG Group aims to compete with multinationals and be "recognised as a major actor of the economic system in order to satisfy essential needs of the populations in Africa, especially in West Africa."

SK Telecom, which has been in operation since 1984, is South Korea's largest wireless carrier and understood to be the first in the world to use the third-generation synchronised IMT-2000 cellular system.

It became the world's sixth carrier to attain ten million subscriptions in 1997 and is presently expanding into global markets such as Vietnam, US and China. It has no direct telecom operation in Africa.

In 2013, Senegalese President Macky Sall called for the introduction of a fourth mobile operator in the hope that this would increase competition and reduce the cost of communications and internet access.

However, in November 2015 the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) was unsuccessful in its engagement with existing telcos to establish and operate 4G networks in the country.

Sonatel/Orange, Tigo and Expresso abstained claiming that the 30 billion CFA required for the 20-year 4G license is too high.

In response the ARTP then reopened the bid "to any international operator interested in developing Senegal's telephony and mobile internet", thus opening the door for the CKG Group SK Telecom offer.

In January President Sall called for sanctions against the country's three telcos because of their boycott.

After some discussions, ARTP has last week renewed the operating concession for the state-owned fixed and mobile operator Sonatel (which operates Orange) with new conditions for fixed, 2G and 3G services for a reduced period of 17 years starting 8 August 2017 and extended the operation of its mobile arm Orange to offer 4G LTE services for a similar period.

While Sonatel notes on its website that it will conduct the commercial launch of 4G services in July 2016, Tigo and Expresso Telecom have reportedly opened talks with ARTP to secure similar licences.