Senegal's economic growth has improved steadily in recent years, with GDP estimated to have grown 5.1% in 2015.
This has translated into consistent growth in the telecom market, with the number of mobile subscribers having increased 2.6% in the first quarter of 2016 alone. Orange Group's local subsidiary Sonatel is the dominant player in both the fixed-line and mobile sectors, though there is effective competition in the mobile sector from Tigo Senegal and Sudatel's local unit Expresso, which have a 23% and 21% market share, respectively.
Competition in the fixed-line sector was introduced when Expresso launched services as the second national operator (SNO) in 2009. The new entrant initially chose CDMA2000 technology to serve both market segments but switched to GSM technology in 2010, including 3G/HSPA mobile broadband.
The licensing of new operators has not always been transparent in Senegal, with the licences of both Sentel and Sudatel were awarded under controversial circumstances. Sentel settled a four-year licence dispute with the government in August 2012.
The mobile market has prospered, helped in part by poor fixed-line infrastructure in some rural areas. Mobile penetration reached about 117% by mid-2016. A range of value-added services is available to subscribers, including mobile broadband access, which has become by far the dominant internet platform, accounting for about 98.5% of all internet accesses as of mid-2016.
Recent licensing developments will help propel the LTE sector. In June 2016 Sonatel secured a 17-year LTE licence (reduced from 20 years), as well as an extension to its fixed-line, 2G and 3G operating concessions (which had been due to expire in 2017) for no additional cost. The LTE licence includes the use of 10MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band and 10MHz in the 800MHz band. Sonatel must provide 70% population coverage within five years and 90% coverage within ten years.
Development of the internet market until 2007 was hampered by Sonatel's monopolistic pricing of bandwidth on the only high-capacity international submarine fibre optic cable serving the country. Despite this, broadband services in Senegal are relatively advanced, and a range of IP-based services including broadband TV (IPTV) and converged triple-play services are offered. Sonatel has progressively reduced its prices following the arrival of several competing international fibre optic submarine cables.