Facebook's 2-month Free Basics offer to Etisalat 'simply expired,' says Egyptian official

Reuters , Ahram Online , Thursday 31 Dec 2015

The official at the Ministry of Telecommunications told Reuters 'national security' had nothing to do with ending the service

Facebook and Etisalat
The logos of Facebook and Etisalat (Photo: Ahram Online)

A Facebook-sponsored service that offers limited free Internet access to clients of the mobile carrier Etisalat was suspended in Egypt on Wednesday after a permit required from the government was not renewed, an official from the Telecommunications Ministry explained to Reuters.

Facebook's Free Basics service, which aims to provide free access to Facebook and some partner websites in developing countries, was launched in Egypt two months ago by the mobile carrier Etisalat.

The official, who declined to be named, said Etisalat had only been granted a permit to offer the service for two months and that, when it expired on Wednesday, the service was suspended.

The suspension was not related to security concerns, the official said.

Etisalat said only that it would release a statement on Thursday.

Facebook had told AP on Wednesday "We're disappointed that Free Basics will no longer be available in Egypt. More than 1 million people who were previously unconnected had been using the Internet because of these efforts."

Etisalat Misr, that launched its services to Egyptians in 2007, is the smallest of Egypt's three privately-owned mobile operators in terms of market share.

Vodafone and Mobinil carriers control the lion share of  the 93 million mobile lines registered in Egypt in 2015.

Etisalat operates 22 million subscriptions, Vodafone operates 38 million subscriptions, while Mobinil share of the market stands at 33 million subs.

Etisalat is 66 percent owned by he United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat Group.

Facebook and other social media sites are extremely popular in Egypt, and were used to organise protests during the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

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