Etisalat soft launched in Egypt May 1

400,000 individuals book Etisalat number ahead of commercial launch.

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By  Administrator Published  May 1, 2007

Etisalat soft launched Egypt's third mobile phone network on May 1, making it the first operator to introduce 3G in the populous North African country.

Etisalat, which paid US$2.94 billion for the licence last year, postponed its initial launch date of February after it encountered problems in deploying the network in certain areas, as well as agreeing certain terms and conditions with incumbent operators Vodafone Egypt and Orascom's Mobinil.

The move will spell the end for the Vodafone/Mobinil duopoly in the country's mobile market where penetration stands at 22%. The incumbent operators have been able to build up extensive customer bases, and in order to start making an impact on the market, a number booking programme that commenced April 12 saw 400,000 individuals register for Etisalat's service.

At the time of launch, Etisalat would have deployed no less than 760 base stations, many of them 3G-capable, reflecting a rollout period of just six months. By the end of the year the operator expects the number of base stations to have swelled to 2,500 as Etisalat looks to extend coverage further and consolidate coverage in the areas in which it already offers services.

Etisalat is looking to add as many as 10 million subscribers in its first three of operations, raising overall mobile penetration in Egypt to 50%.

Etisalat owns 66% of the entity, which is set to pay an annual royalty fee of 6% of gross operating revenues to the national regulator.

The other partners in the Etisalat consortium are the Egyptian Post Office, with a 20% stake, state-owned National Bank of Egypt with a 10% share and Commercial International Bank with 4%.

Etisalat Egypt CEO, Saleh El Abdooli, unveiled offers and services that Etisalat is presenting to the market at launch, and stated, "the cost of an Etisalat line is EGP25 (US$4.40), and available lines will be both prepaid and post-paid." The Etisalat prepaid line, called Ahlan, will have scratch cards with values of EGP 5, 10 and 100, and for the first time in the country, scratch cards of EGP 20, 40 and 250 will also be offered. All scratch cards will cost and provide the value shown on the card, without any extra hidden costs. "The price per minute with the prepaid Ahlan line is 39 piasters, and includes sales tax, while the price of an SMS is 29 piasters. All the services we are offering to the Egyptian public are completely transparent and fair to the consumer, without any hidden costs," commented Abdooli.

Etisalat plans not only to provide its users with lifetime validity, but also life-long free calls, where a user receives five minutes of free airtime per month by making a one-minute call every month. As for post-paid lines, the monthly subscription fee will be EGP 35 with a cost per minute of 34 piasters - with the sales tax included in the cost. Etisalat will also offer 30 minutes free each month for three months for all post-paid users. The operator expects to attract 10 million subscribers in three years of operation.

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