Tuesday 4 April 2023

Little Progress on 5G in Egypt


Egypt’s mature mobile market has one of the highest penetration rates in Africa. Progress in the adoption of mobile data services has been hampered by the lack of sufficient spectrum. To address this, the regulator in September 2020 made available 60MHz in the 2.6GHz band, though the spectrum was not allocated until late 2021. The additional spectrum will go far to enabling the MNOs to improve the quality of mobile broadband services offered. Further 5G trials are to be held later in 2022, focused on the New Administrative Capital.

The international cable infrastructure remains an important asset for Egypt, which benefits from its geographical position. Telecom Egypt has become one of the largest concerns in this segment, being a participating member in numerous cable systems. In mid-2021 the telco announced plans to build the Hybrid African Ring Path system, connecting a number of landlocked countries in Africa with Italy, France, and Portugal. The system will partly use the company’s existing terrestrial and subsea cable networks.

Egypt also has the biggest mobile phone market in Africa with 4 network providers: Vodafone Egypt, Orange (formerly: Mobinil), Etisalat and WE (by Telecom Egypt).

Telecom Egypt rebranded its retail business to WE in 2017 with the launch of its mobile offering. Since 2017, this operator has expanded nicely, and users have more than doubled since the end of 2019. Market research company Omdia estimates that at the end of June 2022, the operator had about a 10% share of the Egyptian mobile market.

Telecom Egypt owns a 45% stake in Vodafone Egypt, which is the country's biggest mobile operator with almost 42% market share. Orange Egypt has about 26% market share and Etisalat almost 22%.

According to the most recent Open Signal report on Egypt, it's evident that WE is the dominant operator when it comes to national mobile network experience in Egypt. The operator wins five out of the 10 awards outright — Video Experience, Games Experience, Download Speed Experience, Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality. In addition, WE also shares the top spot alongside Etisalat in Upload Speed Experience, as well as Availability, there is a three-way split between Etisalat, Vodafone and WE. Meanwhile, Vodafone is the only other operator to achieve outright wins; it leads in Voice App Experience, 4G Availability and 4G Coverage Experience.

However, our results also reveal that there is a lot of room for improvement across all national operators.

Vodafone Egypt is the largest mobile network operator in the North African nation and holds a 43% revenue market share, and has 43 million consumer and enterprise customers. The operator is also Egypt’s largest mobile wallet provider through Vodafone Cash, according to the national telecoms regulatory authority.

Vodacom’s acquisition of a 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt was concluded in December 2022 on the basis of a €577m ($622m) cash offer and the issuance of more than two million shares. The deal, worth R43.6bn, the largest in the South African network operator’s history, has resulted in parent Vodafone increasing its shareholding in Vodacom to 65.1% from 60.5%.

The transaction means Vodacom’s population reach in the African market now exceeds 500 million. Egypt is Africa’s third most populous nation, with a population exceeding 110 million.

Orange was previously the biggest mobile provider in Egypt back in the days when it was still called Mobinil. In 2016 they were rebranded to the Orange label. They offer a good coverage in the country and 4G/LTE has started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.

The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has allocated new frequencies to Orange Egypt, offering 30MHz in the frequency space of 2,600MHz with a Time Division Duplex (TDD) system.

The new frequencies were allocated in return for USD 440 million, to be used for providing mobile phone services in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The frequencies can be used for both 4G and 5G deployments.

Etisalat Misr is the third operator in terms of market share. 

Etisalat Misr has selected Ericsson to modernise its Business Support Systems (BSS), with it claimed that the transformation will see the upgrade and modernisation of the former’s BSS platform to support data and VoLTE traffic growth, 5G readiness and IoT.

It was noted that the agreement will equip Etisalat Misr with a range of upgraded capabilities across all its business operations in the customer, product, and service management domains and for customers, enterprises, partners, network technologies and events. Ericsson BSS will reportedly enable Etisalat Misr to further spur innovation and enhance customer satisfaction with more flexibility. A press release regarding the agreement also noted that it will secure capacity expansion for VoLTE using Ericsson Cloud VoLTE technology, with this expected to enable a superior customer experience for ‘several millions of users’.

Telecom Egypt is the state-owned landline monopolist. In 2016 it acquired a LTE license and the network has been started in autumn 2017. They provide 4G/LTE at first "experimentally" on Bands 1 and 8 (900, 2100 MHz). 2G and 3G coverage is done through roaming agreements with Orange and Etisalat. The country’s long-awaited 4th mobile network is branded as WE.

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