CAIRO: Mobinil has agreed to suspend offering Edge Technology and upgrade its network in exchange for governmental authorization to offer lifetime validity to its prepaid customers and add one million new numbers, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) announced Tuesday.
According to a ministry statement, Mobinil will invest in upgrading its network over the next six months to improve the quality of its services. The company has also committed to end the offering of Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (Edge) services until it acquires a 3G license.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference following the reaching the agreement, Mobinil Chairman and CEO Alex Shalaby said the company will stop offering Edge by April 15 despite its belief the technology falls within 2G limits and not 3G as the government argues. The regulators have “the right and privilege to make that decision, he said. Shalaby declined to disclose how much the company plans to spend on network upgrades but refuted the government’s claim Mobinil’s services were not up to par.
“Our service has never got outside the limits of our license, Shalaby told The Daily Star Egypt. “The investment plan we shared with the regulators exceeds by far the amounts we have spent in previous years.
The agreement caps nearly a year of disputes between Mobinil and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) begun with the latter’s declaration of Edge as 3G technology requiring the acquisition of a LE 3.34 billion license.
In recent months, the NTRA also began voicing its concerns over the quality of service provided by Mobinil, a 51 percent market share holder, citing increasing public complaints. Last week, NTRA Chairman Amr Badawy declined Mobinil’s request for 1 million new numbers and ordered the company to retreat its public offer for lifetime validity. Badawy cited customer complaints and the lack of infrastructure investment as reasons the NTRA believed Mobinil could not handle more business.
Badawy also classified the lifetime validity offer as a change in calling rates requiring preliminary approval by the authority, a notion that was retracted yesterday for reasons undisclosed at press time. In MCIT’s announcement, the government said it also would allow Vodafone Egypt to make a “similar offer to lifetime validity, although the company is yet to announce its plans.
As for 3G technology, Shalaby said Mobinil’s board is sticking to its decision not to acquire the license considering its high price and what company officials view as low potential for significant demand.
“We don’t believe there’s demand for 3G services, Shalaby said. “Maybe that will change in the future.
With the entrance of Etisalat expected by the second half of May, Mobinil is set to become the lone operator without a 3G license, something Shalaby said does not bother company officials. The company announced yesterday it had reached 10 million subscribers, up by nearly 3 million subscribers over September 2006 figures.