The Egyptian regulator NTRA will launch a tender for two international VoIP gateways at the end of month (March 2005). Until recently, the NTRA had only legalised VoIP for PC-to-PC calling and VPNs and this new move represents a major step forward.

The terms and conditions of the tender? Everyone will have to wait for the tender to appear but it is known that the NTRA will be reserving special number ranges for VoIP callers.

At present NTRA filters traffic to try and catch grey market VoIP calling but admits that it’s hard and unnecessary work and that it needs to regulate to allow VoIP. Inevitably lower international VoIP prices – the regulator was unwilling to speculate how low – will trigger a rebalancing of domestic rates which at present are very low.

The grey market is currently worth around EG pounds 100 million ($17.5 million) despite harsh laws outlawing illegal use of VoIP that the Egyptian regulator currently sees as a criminal activity.

Even if it is only two international gateways, the legalisation of VoIP will give a strong fillip to the growth of broadband. There are now around 100,000 broadband subscribers and a 256k connection costs EG pounds 150 ($26) a month. The regulator will shortly consider whether to lower the price again. It is also going to carry out a study in the next few months to look into opening up the 3.5 ghz spectrum for Wi-MAX use.