3G launch delay prompts questions in Algeria

Telecoms

Algerians are asking many questions about the country's delay in launching high-speed 3G mobile telecommunication, which was scheduled to take place in the first quarter of this year.

Post and ICT Minister Moussa Benhamadi attributed the delay primarily to the situation regarding Djezzy, which is due to be purchased by the state.

The minister has not yet given a precise date for the launch, but has underlined that the authorities are in the process of agreeing on significant investments, such as 115 billion dinars to boost the fibre optic network and 140 billion dinars to roll out ICT technology nationwide.

"We are working to provide internet access nationwide with no discrimination or restrictions," he told the Algerian media, pointing out that 3,000 sites, including cultural institutions, commune assembly offices, facilities for young people, universities, private homes and institutions are now connected.

Zoheir Meziane, a public relations aide to the minister, told APS that the high-speed internet project was "not in any doubt" and that there was "no wavering over the idea of introducing this technology in Algeria".

But internet users and some technology specialists are beginning to lose patience, as they feel that the government's efforts to develop the web are inadequate.

In a statement to El Khabar March 30th, ICT consultant Younes Grar attributed the delay to a "lack of a clear vision on the part of the authorities".

In his view, there is a "conflict of generations" that prevents the issue from being resolved. "The old people who are in control develop an inferiority complex when they see the rapid growth in the use of new technologies by young people," he stated. However, he added that there was political will to move towards this technology.

The security situation goes a long way towards explaining the wait-and-see approach towards the launch of 3G, according to Abdelkader Benkhaled, a member of the International Digital Academy.

"Either they're scared or they're completely out of touch with what is happening around the world," he told Magharebia. He estimated the losses caused by the delay at more than 1.5 billion euros.

The president of the Algerian Technology Transfer Association (@2t2), Mohamed Damou, told Magharebia that it would be better to switch directly to 4G so that the country will not lag even further behind.

"In 2020, the fifth generation (5G) of mobile telephony standards will be launched. If we stay with 3G, we will lag behind, whereas if Algeria switches directly to 4G with a fourth operator, it will benefit from all of the developments, because all aspects of services will develop in an extraordinary way," he explained.

Algerian internet users have voiced their disappointment on social networks, creating groups urging authorities to solve the problem.

Mourad Azzouz, who runs an internet café in Algiers, told Magharebia that as far back as 2009, former ICT Minister Hamid Bessalah said that the country should switch directly to 4G because 3G technology was "reaching the end of its lifespan".

"Other countries are already using 4G. Without going too far, our Moroccan neighbours have already adapted to 3G and are planning to launch 4G in the near future," Azzouz said. "Why are we never on time?"