A new $100 million internet service provider will give users in Egypt free access to the Internet for the first time, said the company's chairman.
“We have the necessary licensing and are finalising negotiations with Telecom Egypt to set up, for the first time, a free internet portal, with no subscription and charged at local rates,” said Basel Dalloul, CEO of new internet upstart, Noor. The portal brings Noor Advanced Technologies into a strategic alliance with US-based Cisco Systems and Japan's NCR, which Dalloul said will result in the most high-tech service provider in the region.
“Cisco is providing us with the latest technology they have, which is the most advanced in the Middle East,” Dalloul said. He added that Noor and fixed-line state monopoly Telecom Egypt would be making an official announcement soon but declined to specify a date.
Dalloul's comments came during a news conference held at Cairo's fifth annual Telecomp exhibition, which brings together telecom and IT firms operating in the Middle East. Speaking at the opening, Egypt's Telecommunications Minster Ahmed Nazif said internet subscriptions had risen over 60%, to 500,000, in the last year.
Noor and its partners said that content and integration are what will distinguish their portal from the competition. “The main concept behind Noor is content. Most of what you see in Egypt is service providers being only bandwidth providers,” Ghazi Attallah, a regional manager at Cisco, told me. “In addition to the usual US and European content, Noor will provide local content,” he added.
“Noor will provide all the services, including e-commerce, that our corporate clients will need,” said Nidal Aboul-Latif, a regional manager at NCR.
They view Egypt as a launch pad for future expansion drives into the Middle East. “Egypt is the biggest potential market and the most accessible market in terms of deregulation in the region,” Attallah said.
“We've been looking at Egypt for over a year… The investment climate in Egypt is encouraging,” added Dalloul.
This article was first published by Reuters on 16 January 2001.