5G in Senegal: Free offers a new connectivity experience

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[ACCI-CAVIE] Telecoms operator Free Sénégal has failed to qualify for the call for tenders for the award of 5G licences in Senegal, launched on 31 May 2023 by the Autorité de régulation des télécommunications et des postes (ARTP). Its bid of 3 billion CFA francs was rejected for non-compliance. The reserve price was set at 19.5 billion CFA francs.

Senegalese telecom company Saga Africa Holdings Limited (Free) has expanded its operating license to include fifth-generation (5G) mobile technology. The operator acquired 90 MHz of frequencies in the 3,500 MHz band for CFA13.5 billion ($22.4 million), according to a regulator statement.

Free becomes the second Senegalese telecom operator to acquire the 5G license. Its rival, Sonatel, acquired this technology in July for $34.5 million following a process initiated in May by the ARTP. As a reminder, Free participated in the public call for tenders, but its offer of CFA3 billion was rejected for non-compliance, as was the CFA2 billion offer submitted by Expresso Senegal. The reserve price was set at CFA19.5 billion.

“However, given the importance of this technology for operators, Saga Africa Holdings Limited subsequently expressed its desire to adopt 5G. Thus, the operator concluded with the State of Senegal an amendment to the concession agreement,” explained the regulator.

With its 5G license, Free can now deploy commercial 5G services in Senegal. The mobile operator had already initiated an ultra-high-speed experimental phase in June 2022 with the technical support of the Swedish company Ericsson.

The commercial launch of 5G is expected to help Free meet the growing demand for high-speed connectivity in the country, attract new subscribers, and enhance its competitiveness in a market dominated by Sonatel.

According to the latest ARTP data, Free had 5.36 million mobile phone subscribers, holding a market share of 24.47% in Q2 2023. Its main competitors, Orange (Sonatel) and Expresso control 56.23% and 17.02% of the national mobile phone subscriber base, respectively. On the internet segment, the company had a market share of 24.05%.