GSMA calls for renewed talks between government, mobile operators on 4G licenses in Egypt

Ahram Online , Friday 30 Sep 2016

Woman speaking on phone
File Photo: A woman speaks on the phone at a metro station in Cairo February 14, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

The GSMA has called for renewed talks between the Egyptian authorities and the country’s mobile industry after the offering of fourth-generation (4G) licences failed to attract any bids from Egypt’s three mobile operators, a press release by the association read on Thursday.

The association said that Egypt’s existing mobile carriers are ready to support and invest in 4G in Egypt if “sufficient spectrum is allocated, at a fair price, so that 4G services can be operated efficiently and enable customers to enjoy significantly faster speeds.”

“We urge the Egyptian government to increase the amount of spectrum offered to mobile operators to facilitate the speedy roll-out of 4G services in Egypt” said John Giusti, GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer.

Last week, Egypt’s telecom regulator, the National Telecom Regulatory Authority, said it may offer the 4G service licences by international tender after the three local mobile operators—Vodafone Egypt, Orange Egypt, and Etisalat—declined to apply for it due to terms and conditions of the 4G licence set by NTRA.

According to the GSMA, the total amount of spectrum assigned to each operator for 4G needs to be in the range of 2x30MHz to 2x60MHz, across a range of coverage and capacity bands, with a minimum contiguous bandwidth of 2x10MHz in each band.

Egypt has offered in contrast only 2×2.5MHz to 2x5MHz to mobile operators in the recent 4G licence offering, driving the three mobile operators to decline to apply.

Egypt's largest mobile operator, Vodafone, said the “current terms and conditions of the 4G licence do not serve the interests of the Egyptian citizen and do not take into account the developmental dimension of the telecom sector in Egypt.”

Orange, the second biggest mobile operator in the country, has also decided not to apply for the 4G licence under the current terms and conditions, echoing that the company will be willing to participate in the light of new requirements.

“We believe that to be able to launch 4G with the acceptable quality of service we need at least less 2x20 MHZ [bandwidth] per operator,” Orange Egypt CEO Yves Gauthier told Ahram Online in emailed comments in July.

Gauthier added that "the first propositions from the [Egyptian] regulator are very far from this and it is a major concern for us.”

The bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time.

“If we do not have enough frequencies, the speed of 4G will be like the 3G and our customers will be very disappointed,” he said.

Egypt is selling 4G licences as part of a long-awaited scheme to reform the country’s telecoms sector.

The state-owned telephone company Telecom Egypt (TE), which holds the landline monopoly, already signed a deal in August to be the first operator to buy a 15-year 4G mobile licence.

In July, Communications and Information Technology Minister Yasser El-Qadi said that if any of the three operators do not apply for the new licence, it will be offered to non-Egyptian companies through bidding.

So far Kuwait's leading mobile operator Zain, Saudi Telecom and Lebara KSA have expressed interest in obtaining the new licence.

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