State-owned fixed line monopoly Telecom Egypt said on Wednesday it would pay fees to become Egypt's third mobile operator, but reiterated it would not buy a new licence.
“We will have to pay fees for our mobile network but they will not be for a licence,” Telecom Egypt's chairman Akil Beshir told Reuters.
Telecom Egypt's potential mobile telephone rivals say they want a level playing field, and the state-owned operator should pay fees and purchase a licence like everyone else.
Telecom Egypt sold its mobile operations to the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (MobiNil) in 1997, but says it retained an operating licence. The Ministry of Communications' Telecoms Regulatory Authority has approved Telecom Egypt's resumption of mobile services from December 2002, once the current exclusivity arrangement for its rivals expires.
Rivals MobiNil and Vodafone Egypt (Click GSM) may protest if it tries to get back into the high-growth business without paying for a new licence, but an official at the Ministry of Communications, who declined to be named, said: “They already obtained a licence before they sold their operation, so they don't need to pay fees for a licence.”
Mobile phone operator Orascom Telecom's chairman Naguib Sawiris told Reuters in March he wanted Telecom Egypt to pay the same licence fee as existing operators. In a country with a population of 66.6 million and only 2.25 million mobile phone subscribers, industry experts say Egypt's mobile phone market is the most promising in the region.
This article was first published by Reuters on 9 May 2001.