Telecom Egypt's new CEO quashed speculation that it might not seek to enter the domestic mobile market, saying the operator is paving the way for a mobile licence by working on the resolution of long-standing disputes with mobile operators.
Osama Yassin, who replaced former CEO Mohamed Elnawawy earlier this year, told Reuters that the company still wants to gain mobile access and was planning to start rolling out 4G services in 2016.
He added that a mobile licence should also not be contingent on the sale of Telecom Egypt's 45 per cent in Vodafone Egypt.
"We think it is our right to have a mobile licence with the 4G frequency…and we hope that we can preserve in one way or another our 45 per cent stake in Vodafone," Yassin said.
The incumbent operator, which is still 80 per cent owned by the state, had previously planned to pay EGP2.5 billion (€285 million/$311 million) for a 3G mobile licence. The deal would also have allowed Mobinil, Etisalat Egypt and Vodafone Egypt to enter the fixed-line market, but the mobile operators delayed the plans because of a dispute over interconnection fees.
Mobile operators have also complained that Telecom Egypt charges too much for renting its landline infrastructure for ADSL services.
Yassin told Reuters he was confident the interconnection fees dispute would be settled soon and also appeared ready to compromise over wholesale rental prices.
"If I lower the price a bit and get more customers, I benefit and the companies benefit. There has to be some return in exchange," he said.
The Egyptian government originally approved unified licences for fixed and mobile players last year. Mobinil has previously expressed uncertainty about the unified licences, warning that it might opt out of the landline option unless it was permitted to build its own fixed networks.
Orange increased its stake in Mobinil to 99 per cent in February this year, describing the Egyptian market as one of its most important assets in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region and its largest market in terms of customers.
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