Niger is a developing country, consistently ranks near the bottom in the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI); it was ranked last at 188th for 2014. Much of the non-desert portions of the country are threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence, with some export agriculture in the more fertile south, and export of raw materials, especially uranium ore.
The Internet penetration rate was only 4.3% in 2017. A new competition framework will liberalise VoIP Internet telephony completely, creating additional opportunities for them. The introduction of UTL’s Freenet service and a special Internet tariff countrywide have helped to increase Internet usage, as has the recent strong growth of the fixed-line networks and an explosion of the number of cybercafes.
The introduction of cellular telephony has revolutionised Niger’s telecommunications industry since the first network went live in 1995, with two more following in 1998 and 2001. As early as 1999 Niger became the first country on the continent where the number of mobile subscribers passed the number of fixed-line users, and the ratio is now more than 18:1. The market is consistently growing at around 50% p.a., while market penetration is still low at less than 9%. The recent introduction of GPRS will enable the mobile operators to play a larger role in Internet service provision. The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) is responsible for regulation activities for postal services and telecommunications in Niger.
SONITEL (an acronym of Société Nigérienne des Télécommunications or Nigerien Telecommunications Society) is the Nigerien national telephone and telecommunications carrier. It was created in 1997 as a fusion of the telecommunications arm of Nigerien Posts and Telecommunications and the STIN (Société des Télécommunications Internationales du Niger / International Telecommunications Society of Niger) which controlled land-line telephone connections abroad. SONITEL had the government of Niger as a majority share holder. Following the 1999 Constitution of the Fifth Republic, SONITEL was to be privatized. In 2001, after an unsuccessful round of offerings, the majority of the companies shares were sold to Sino-Libyan consortium DATAPORT, made up of the Libyan LAAICO company and the Chinese ZTE, although the government of Niger continued to hold a third of the company’s shares. SONITEL continued to hold a monopoly on Internet communication, .ne name registry, and international fixed line voice communication.
(None reported as of November, 2017)