TUNISIE TELECOM PRIVATISATION AND GOVT’S LIBERALISATION PLANS HERALD MAJOR CHANGES

Telecoms

The planned privatization of Tunisie Telecom will be a major event in Tunisia’s telecom history. That, along with the government’s liberalization plans, will usher in a new era of massive growth and potential in the Tunisian telecom sector.

Tunisie Telecom is the sole supplier of the fixed line services in Tunisia. The Ministry of Communication Technologies along with the National Telecommunication Commission (Instance Nationale des Télécommunication -INT) and the National Agency for Frequencies are responsible for the regulatory aspects. The ministry is in charge of licensing and not the INT. The INT is responsible for arbitration and solving disputes between the operators and is also responsible for regulating interconnection.

The telecom law, ratified by the parliament in January 2001, sets the regulatory framework for the entire telecommunications sector. The law enables the opening-up of the market to private companies by introducing a licensing regime for the supply of telecommunications services and networks.

“Tunisia is slated to have the biggest privatization process in its telecom history by early 2006. In accordance with its policy of opening the telecom sector to private investment, the Tunisian Government, through the Ministry of Communication Technologies, has offered strategic partners the opportunity to acquire, through an international tender, a 35% stake in Société Nationale des Télécommunications (Tunisie Télécom). The government aims at selling the 35% to a ‘strategic partner’, a major foreign telecom company or consortium of financiers in partnership with a major foreign telecom operator. It is seeking a partner with expertise, a sharp edge on technology and a strong ally that will back up the government in growing and developing further Tunisie Telecom.” Serene Zawaydeh, a Consultant at Arab Advisors Group, wrote in the report.

The Tunisian market is characterized by healthy growth in both the mainline fixed market and the cellular market. Mainlines grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.2% between 1999 and 2004, increasing from 850,069 in 1999, a penetration rate of 9% to reach 1,203,530 by end of 2004, a penetration rate of 12.1%. “More impressively, Tunisia’s cellular subscribers grew at a CAGR of 144% between 1999 and 2004, increasing from 43,320 subscribers by end of 1999, a penetration rate of 0.5% to reach 3,735,695 subscribers by end of 2004, a penetration rate of 37.6% with over 1.8 million subscribers added in 2004.” Ms. Zawaydeh added.

Competition in the mobile sector started towards the end of 2002, when the second mobile operator, Orascom Telecom Tunisia launched its services. By end of August 2005, the ministry initiated the procedure for liberalizing the fixed line market and for introducing further competition in the mobile market. The ministry is studying the options related to the upcoming fixed line and mobile licensing procedures, which underlines the ministry’s aim to liberalize the Tunisian telecom market.

Arab Advisors Group