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Senegal regulator slams $35m fine on three mobile operators

Abdoul Ly Senegal.jpg

Senegal’s telecoms regulator has fined operators a total of almost US$35 million for quality of service – though they are contesting the decisions.

In one action, the regulator has fined Sonatel, Expresso and Saga Holding the equivalent of $35 million for poor quality of service.

Sonatel is owned by Orange, with a fine of $28.8 million. Free Senegal, controlled by Xavier Niel, has been told to pay $4.3 million, and Expresso, a subsidiary of Sudatel, has to pay $1.8 million.

The Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications et des Postes (ARTP, Telecommunications and Postal Regulatory Authority) said its decision formed part of “a large campaign to measure the quality of service and the coverage of the 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks operated by operators on the whole of the national territory”.

ARTP carried out its research from 16 August to 10 November 2021, said the regulator.

Earlier this year ARTP told Expresso Senegal to upgrade its mobile network to 4G and to activate its fixed network.

Abdoul Ly (pictured), the director general of ARTP, told Expresso’s acting CEO Rady Almamoun in March “to reactivate the fixed telephony in all its forms”.

In its latest move, the regulator said it has been paying more attention to the quality of telecoms services while the demand for connectivity has continued to increase. The number of internet subscribers in Senegal rose from 13.1 million at the end of June 2020 to 15.4 million a year later.

Voice traffic rose from 2.30 billion minutes to 2.71 billion minutes in the same period.

However, Free Senegal – formerly Tigo – said it was contesting the decision. The company said it “ahead of the obligations contained in its specifications, mainly with regard to the coverage of populations and the main roads of Senegal”.

Saga African Holding bought Tigo Senegal from its previous owner, Millicom, in 2018. Saga is controlled by a company run by Xavier Niel, owner of Iliad in France, which also operates under the Free brand.