Mobinil launches 3G services in Egypt


The Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil) launched its 3G services on 1 September after long delays. The largest mobile phone operator in Egypt by subscribers, Mobinil invested more than LE 3.3 billion in 2007 and about LE 4 billion in 2008 in building new sites, which now number more than 6,500 sites across Egypt.

Mobinil was meant to receive the frequency band on Jan. 17 but the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority did not say it was available until late March, the company said at the time. In April, the company again postponed introducing 3G services to mid-July, saying regulatory authorities had been late in handing over a frequency band for testing.

The mobile operator’s 3G services will be available in Cairo, Alexandria, Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, Dahab, Taba, Safaga, Marsa Alam, Luxor and Aswan.The new network offers 3G, 3.5G and 3.75G services and also includes advanced second generation GSM features, GPRS and EDGE. Subscribers will have access to high speed download, internet communication and browsing as well as high speeds in data downloads through EDGE technology.

“The last few months have witnessed an incredible effort to increase the number of base stations installed to more than 6,500 base stations, out of which 700 are 3G and more than 2,100 are EDGE-enabled to offer wider coverage in Egypt,” the company said in a statement.

“New frequencies made available through the 3G spectrum will achieve the highest levels of efficiency and capacity to absorb the growing usage of Mobinil services by millions of its current subscribers, in addition to the millions of customers expected to join Mobinil in the coming period,” the firm added.

Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei developed the 3G portion of the network, while Alcatel Lucent and Motorola cooperated with Mobinil to establish the 2G portion of the network. Cisco Systems and Ericsson developed the network infrastructure.

Reports last week said that Mobinil will join Zain’s One Network, citing Zain Saudi’s CEO Marwan Alahmadi. EFG-Hermes reported that One Network allows subscribers to make calls and send SMSs at local rates and receive calls free of charge when traveling in member countries. The service is automatically activated when Zain subscribers cross borders with no extra fees or roaming deposits. The service is now available in Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Mobinil recently announced a change of leadership, with longtime Chairman Naguib Sawiris stepping down and former CEO Alex Shalaby taking the helms as chairman. Olaf Swantee, head of global mobile operations for France Telecom-Orange, which owns 36.3 percent of ECMS, called the management changes part of the “natural evolution” of the firm.

Replacing Shalaby as CEO is Hassan Kabbani, who was CEO of Orascom Telecom Algeria. Tamer El Mahdy will be replacing Kabbani as Orascom Telecom Algeria’s new CEO.

This substantial investment in the 3G network is meant, Swantee previously told Daily News Egypt, to work towards providing “perfect voice quality in Egypt,” and to “enable Egyptians to start using the Mobile internet.”

Mobinil reported an 18 percent decline in net income in the second quarter of 2008 to LE 425 million ($80.2 million). Mobinil said in a statement the number of subscribers rose to 17.5 million in June, a 47 percent increase on the same time last year.