Cairo Telecomp 2002

The sixth annual Cairo Telecomp show was held last month. Find out what took place at the Middle East's biggest annual telecoms show.

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By  Philip Fenton Published  February 6, 2002

Introduction|~||~||~|The sixth annual Cairo Telecomp show got off to even more of a bang than usual following the last minute announcement that President Mubarak himself would open the show. Whilst it's unfair to suggest that telecommunications has been neglected in Egypt, it is true that it had not always been the government's top priority. The presence of Mubarak was symbolic of the government's realisation that a modern, efficient telecommunications infrastructure is essential if Egyptian businesses are to flourish in a modern economy, and foreign companies are to be persuaded to invest their money. The President was not just there to cut the ribbon however. Mubarak pushed the button to turn on the free internet, the government's new initiative to encourage more homes and businesses to go online. The scheme will see an end to subscription services charged by Egyptian ISPs, with users only paying for the price of a local call. The government is predicting that the initiative could lead to around one million Egyptians going online.

||**||The show|~||~||~|

The four day telecom forum was inaugurated by dignitaries including the Egyptian Minster of CIT, Dr Nazif; the Minster of Communications of Syria, Dr Al-Menagged and the assistant secretary general for economic affairs of the Arab League, Dr Rahman.

The Cairo Telecomp Gala Dinner on the night of the opening day saw around 600 invited guests enjoy an evening's entertainment courtesy of Telecom Egypt, who sponsored the event. Towards the end of the evening a birthday cake was wheeled out (Cairo Telecomp is six years old) and anyone with a birthday in January was invited to help cut the cake. The fact that the only people who stood up seemed to be from Telecom Egypt, thus allowing Chairman Akil Beshir and Dr Nazif to cut the cake, was slightly suspicious, but no one really minded.
The presence of President Mubarak was a major coup for the show, and represented the government's new emphasis on the importance of telecoms, as Martin Marz, managing director of show organisers fairtrade, explained. "Telecoms is important for a strong economy.

Mubarak was here and the last exhibition he inaugurated was many years ago. Normally he just opens the International Bookfair and Cairo International Tradefair, but never has he opened any privately organised exhibition."

"I think this gives an idea of how seriously the Egyptian government wants to attract investment in the IT and telecoms field and also that they really support growth in this area. With Dr Nazif taking over there has been a clear strategy, and as he wrote in the telecom catalogue there was a 20% increase in the CIT sector in 2001.

Telecoms is extremely important, because it makes the basis for all kinds of future things, and Egypt has a well educated workforce, such as technicians and engineers, and they definitely need a good telecoms infrastructure. This has been recognised by the government."
Dr Nazif maintained a high profile throughout the opening days of the show as the crowds flocked to see the latest and greatest in Middle Eastern telecommunications. Along with the rest of the world the Middle Eastern telecoms market has suffered a downturn in the last few months. Big announcements may have been thin on the ground, but there was a definite feeling of optimism at the show. The telecoms market is continuing to grow, and most companies told a similar story: that the prospects for 2002 are bright. Over the next few pages CommsMEA, the official media partner of the show, brings you some of the highlights of the sixth annual Cairo Telecomp.

||**||The exhibitors|~||~||~|

Alcatel - The French company, which has had a presence in Egypt for more than 20 years, came to Cairo Telecomp still celebrating their recent agreement with Saudi Telecommunications Company to provide high speed internet services to Saudi Arabian businesses. Vincenzo Nesci, chairman of Alcatel Egypt, had never made a secret of the fact that he was looking for ways to enter the Saudi market, and on December 19 last year he finally got his wish, with the announcement of a $12m contract to deliver Alcatel's high performance LMDS (Local Multi-point Distribution Service) solution to allow STC to offer broadband internet access to small and medium enterprises.

Alcatel was also showcasing its latest GSM handsets, ranging from the mid range One Touch 300 to the high end One Touch 500 and 700, Alcatel's first attempts to enter the market for high end mobile phones. The company was also keen to promote its Egyptian service centre, which contributes to the development of GSM networks throughout the region and further a field.

Huawei - The Chinese telecoms giant was at the show displaying its entire range of products, from relatively simple servers to complex optical, fixed and mobile networks. Huawei remains hopeful it will be offered the chance to help Telecom Egypt construct Egypt's third GSM network, which was another big talking point at the show. Huawei were showcasing their solutions in a number of countries in the region, such as two national backbones the company constructed in Yemen and a GSM network in Tunisia with capacity for 40 000 subscribers. The Chinese company has seen sales revenue more than double in the past two years, and has increased its spending on research and development nearly five times since 1998: in fact 45% of all staff are employed in the R&D department.

Lucent - Lucent was showcasing a wide range of products, including its AnyMedia Access System, which allows multiple services to be delivered through interchangeable application packs. The unit features 16 "plug and play" slots which allow any combination of analogue, pay phone, ISDN and ADSL services. Applications can be easily switched to keep up with changing demands by simply removing one application and plugging in another.

Other highlights on the Lucent stand included the SpringTide 5000 IP Service Switch, designed specifically for the next generation broadband services market. The SpringTide allows service providers to offer subscribers a variety of extra services to increase revenue, such as applying firewall protection, application aware QoS and VPNs. Lucent claim that its safety features, such as port failover and rerouting, enable IP services to achieve an impresive 99.999% availability.

Giesecke & Devrient - From its regional headquarters in Egypt, the German company offers smartcard solutions across the Middle East and North Africa. The company was keen to promote its involvement in Egypt's national identity card project, which saw them provide all the manufacturing equipment and technical know how necessary for the venture. Giesecke & Devrient is still involved in the project, carrying out repairs and maintenance. The company is also proud of the fact that they operate one of just two plants that print the new Euro in Germany: the other mint is owned by the German government.

Jeraisy CardTec - Also in the field of smartcards, Jeraisy were at the show promoting the fact that they are now producing 200 million cards per year. Established in 1994, the company was the first in the Middle East and Africa to be certified to produce Visa and Mastercard cards.

Harbi Yousef, Jeraisy CardTec's CEO, was keen to distance his company from former partners Gemplus, with whom they used to share a factory. "This factory used to be owned by Jeraisy Gemplus. End of 1997 we asked Gemplus to leave because they were not willing to transfer their technology; and their management style, it doesn't agree with ours.

"Our factory sales went up by 14 fold - it was a losing factory, now it's extremely profitable. We no longer have any relationship with Gemplus."

Ericsson - One of the highlights of the show had to be the presentations Ericsson gave on future mobile handsets resulting from their new partnership with Sony, as well as a video on practical applications of 3G technology. Whilst some parts may have been a bit far fetched (would you really send a glorified text message if your boat was sinking in the middle of the ocean?) it was interesting to see some suggestions of how UMTS phones may change affect our lives in the next few years. Back in the present, Ericsson were keen to show off their latest handset, the T68, which features a full colour screen as well as GPRS and Bluetooth. The phone supports EMS, allowing the user will be able to send sounds, pictures and even video clips along with the humble old SMS message. All these features are crammed into a handset that weighs just 84g and offers standby time of over six days.

Thuraya - The UAE's own satellite phone company was displaying its range of mobile handsets in Cairo. The phones continue to get smaller and smaller, and are now at a size to rival some of the better GSM models. They may not be quite so feature laden, but that was never the point. Just before the show opened Thuraya signed an agreement with an Andorran telecoms company to become Thuraya service provider there. The deal in this tiny country, sandwiched between Spain and France, brings the list of service providers within the coverage area of Thuraya's satellite to 49.

As well as SMS and GPS, Thuraya phones will soon offer WAP. The handsets can already be used to send and receive data via an optional cable.

Masts, towers and antenna systems were being shown off by both Alan Dick and Al Babtain LeBlanc. Towers are perhaps not the easiest thing to show off at a trade fair, but Alan Dick had a go with a small mast jutting out from the roof of their stand. Both companies were promoting their ranges of guyed and freestanding masts and their involvement in constructing and maintaining GSM networks throughout the region.||**||

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