Orange Egypt rejects Telecom Regulator 4G license terms

People walk past a sign of French telecom operator Orange hanging from a bridge in Cairo Egypt

CAIRO, Sept 22 Egypt’s telecom regulator said on Thursday that none of the local mobile operators had applied for a fourth-generation license by the September 22 deadline and it would consider launching an worldwide tender for the licenses.

The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) is selling 4G licences in an attempt to reform the telecommunication sector.

Orange and Etisalat did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In its statement, the regulator said its board of directors will meet to discuss alternatives to issuing the licenses, including launching an worldwide tender.

Although Egypt gave domestic mobile operators the priority, the government said that it will launch an worldwide tender in case they declined.

Orange’s main objection was the quantity of spectrum offered by the government, which “would not allow us to offer 4G service up to international” or the company’s standards, Ayman Essam, the operator’s senior director for legal and corporate affairs, said by phone.

Kuwaiti mobile operator Zain, China Telecom, Saudi Telecom and Lebara KSA have all expressed an interest in acquiring Egyptian 4G licences should the established carriers reject them.

There was no immediate statement from those companies.

Vodafone said on Thursday it would be ready to acquire a 4G licence if the terms and conditions could be revised to “encourage future investment in the development of Egypt’s mobile industry”.

Egypt gave companies that already operate in the country priority in obtaining 4G licenses but has said it would launch an worldwide tender should any of them decline the offer. Etisalat has yet to issue a formal statement. Only Telecom Egypt, the state-run fixed-line monopoly, has a 4G license, which it acquired for 7.08 billion Egyptian pounds ($800 million).

Sources told Reuters last month the three companies had also objected to terms requiring 50% of licence payments to be made in U.S. dollars.

Analysts said while the telecom regulator could go for an worldwide auction, both sides stand to gain more by resuming negotiations.

“We expect further negotiations to take place, since it is in favour of all parties involved”, Cairo-based Pharos Holding said in a note to clients.