The telecoms environment is highly profitable and competitive. It is both a political and influential sector. A unique case in the whole continent, all companies are owned and run by Somalis (although often from the diaspora). The companies draw on international expertise from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America. Many of the telecoms companies have offices in the Gulf. This differs from other African countries that have telecoms markets dominated by international players such as MTN, Bharti, or Orange. Many of the main telecommunications companies operate across the Somali region, albeit under different names. The telecoms operators are closely intertwined with mobile money, remittances and the banking industry. One of the major challenges within this sector, partly as a result of the lack of government communication, has been ensuring interconnectivity between companies. Many Somalis that can afford to do so, carry multiple mobile phones and SIM cards.
Following is a list of the main companies:
- Hormuud Telecom is one of the largest companies. Based in Mogadishu, it was formed in 2002 and has a unique structure whereby more than 9000 Somalis hold shares in the company.
- Golis Mobile operates primarily in Puntland and Somaliland and was initially set up using Chinese equipment. It has been credited with offering some of the most inexpensive international calling rates in the world (Economist 2005). Golis is partnered with Salaam Bank.
- Somtel is headquartered in Somaliland and is primarily owned by Dahabshiil, the large Somali remittance company.
- Telesom is headquartered in Somaliland and has been pioneering mobile payments, through Zaad accounts, in the region.
- Telcom is headquartered in Mogadishu and is one of the more established companies in Somalia.
- Nationlink, which was founded in 1997, is among the largest telecoms operators in the Somali territories. It is headquartered in Mogadishu with offices across the region and in Dubai.