GSMA seeks clarity over Egypt's 4G spectrum plans

The GSMA called on the Egyptian authorities and the country's mobile industry to reveal their plans for the allocation of spectrum designed to support the future rollout of 4G services.

After some delay, Egypt now appears to be moving ahead with plans to issue 4G licences to the market's incumbent mobile operators as well as fixed-line operator Telecom Egypt. Reuters also reported that Kuwait's Zain has also now expressed interest in gaining a 4G licence in the market.

However, the GSMA raised concerns that "it is not yet clear if sufficient spectrum will be made available on terms that will encourage rapid and large-scale investments in 4G networks and services."

John Giusti, GSMA chief regulatory officer, noted that there are some "critical success factors" that should to be clarified before moving forward with 4G licensing in Egypt.

"The GSMA is concerned about sufficient spectrum being made available at fair, market-reflective prices to support full-fledged 4G rollout. A clear spectrum roadmap is necessary to allow operators to understand how and when sufficient spectrum will be made available. We believe that further dialogue between government and industry ahead of the proposed licensing process could provide clarity on a plan to bring world-class 4G mobile broadband to consumers and businesses across Egypt," Giusti said.

The GSMA said its international experience shows that the total amount of spectrum assigned to each operator for 4G needs to be in the range of 2x30 MHz to 2x60 MHz, across a range of coverage and capacity bands, with a minimum contiguous bandwidth of 2x10 MHz in each band

The association said it is also essential that cost of spectrum access enables the delivery of the long-term social and economic benefits of mobile broadband and takes into account the investment necessary to provide robust networks.

"To ensure the lowest possible cost and best possible experience for consumers, national 4G services must be able to scale rapidly," added Giusti. "This requires that sufficient spectrum be made available now, and that plans for future spectrum releases are clarified. Having a spectrum roadmap is critical for business and investment planning."

The process of issuing 4G licences now appears to be moving forward in Egypt. Orange Egypt announced in June that it had been asked to pay EGP3.54 billion (€360 million/$398 million) for a 4G licence. The operator added that Egypt's National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) also requested that it pay EGP100 million for a fixed-line licence, and a further EGP1.8 billion to offer international calls.

Telecom Egypt appears to face a bill of EGP7.08 billion, which would cover the cost of its 4G licence and also 2G and 3G licences, Reuters reported previously. The news agency has also said in earlier reports that the NTRA has already approached all three of the country's mobile operators regarding bidding for a 4G licence, while Daily News Egypt stated that the government aims to launch 4G services in the back-half of 2016.

The government could open the bidding to overseas operators if Orange Egypt, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat Egypt decline to bid, Gulf News reported.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this GSMA release

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