The telecommunications system has undergone considerable modernization and expansion in recent years. Following an initial liberalization beginning in 1999, Mauritania's telecommunications sector now consists of four companies: -- Mauritel S.A., the original national telephone company, now majority-owned by Maroc Telecom, which retains a monopoly over land lines and international calls
-- Mauritel Mobile, a Mauritanian-Moroccan joint venture, provides GSM mobile phone services
-- Mattel, a Mauritanian-Tunisian firm, provides a competing GSM mobile network
-- Chinguitel, a newly created Mauritanian-Sudanese firm, provides a GSM mobile network
Liberalization and the introduction of mobile phones in Mauritania have permitted dramatic improvements in quality and coverage as they have elsewhere in Africa. Teledensity rose from 0.5 to 20 per 100 people between 1999 and 2006 thanks to the rapid growth of GSM mobile subscribers. While Mauritel S.A. (fixed lines) has about 40,000 customers, Mauritel Mobile and Mattel have 500,000 and 400,000 subscribers respectively. However, dual subscription is common because the interconnect rates between the two networks are very high. The mobile phone companies also service several localities outside of Nouakchott. Since 2006, GSM services have become available in more remote areas of the country, but network problems still exist. Mauritel S.A., along with Top Technology, is the main Internet service provider. Its internet network (thanks in part to technology supplied in 1995 by Harris Corporation of the U.S.) extends to the 12 regional capitals, with international links via France Telecom, Maroc Telecom and Germany's Intelsat. In urban areas, both demand and access fees for internet access are high, and the capacity of the few local ISPs is stretched to the limit.
In June 2004, the Mauritanian Government took another major step toward liberalization by opening up internet service and international calls to competition, and by granting additional mobile phone licenses. Mauritanian companies are actively seeking U.S. partners to take advantage of the opportunities generated by new information and communications technologies.