Egyptian operators await confirmation of unified licence clearance

Egyptian mobile operator Mobinil said it has not yet decided whether to take up a new unified telecoms licence that would enable it to offer fixed-line communications for the first time because it has still not received full details or confirmation of the licence terms.

The Egyptian government reportedly approved the licences on Sept. 5, just over two months after they were originally due to be released on June 30, Reuters reported. The licences enable incumbent Telecom Egypt to offer mobile services for the first time, and the country's mobile operators--Vodafone Egypt, Mobinil, and Etisalat Egypt--to break into the fixed line telephony sector.

In an e-mailed statement, a Mobinil spokesperson told FierceWireless:Europe that the company has yet to receive full details of the licence terms, meaning it is too soon to decide whether the company will make a play for the fixed-line market, or even lease wireless capacity to Telecom Egypt to enable it to offer mobile access.

A Telecom Egypt spokesperson had a similar take, telling FW:E that the company "has not yet been addressed officially or received any official notifications from the concerned government parties" regarding the unified licences.

The incumbent operator in May agreed to pay EGP2.5 billion (€270 million/$349 million) for a unified licence, even though Egypt's National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) stipulated that the operator would not gain access to new mobile frequencies including those for 4G (LTE) services. In contrast, mobile operators will pay a fee of EGP100 million for their combined licence.

Egypt's government also reportedly extended a deadline set by the NTRA for Telecom Egypt to sell its 44.95 per cent stake in Vodafone Egypt after the unified licence is issued, Reuters added. The incumbent will have until December 2015 to offload the stake, rather than 12 months as originally required.

Mobile operators may not rush to take up a unified licence, however, as fixed-line subscribers in the country are falling while wireless customers grow. As such, the release of unified licences is more likely to benefit Telecom Egypt, which can now attempt to stem the flow by building its mobile user base.

Vodafone Egypt has focused firmly on its mobile network in 2014, hinting that it may pass on the unified licence. In March, the company revealed it will invest at least EGP9 billion to improve services in the country. It followed that with a managed services contract for Ericsson in August that Vodafone Egypt described as a "first of its kind."

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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