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Mon 30 Apr 2007 04:00 AM

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Etisalat Egypt soft launches May 1

A number booking programme that commenced April 12 has seen 400,000 subscribers register for Etisalat’s service, which has been rolled out to a geographical area substantially wider than what is required under the licence conditions.

Etisalat will soft launch Egypt's third mobile phone network on May 1, making it the first operator to launch 3G in the populous North African country.

Etisalat, which paid US$2.94 billion for the licence last year, postponed its initial launch date of February after it encountered problems in deploying the network in certain areas, as well as agreeing terms and conditions with incumbent operators Vodafone and Mobinil.

The move will spell the end for the Vodafone/Mobinil duopoly in the country’s mobile market where penetration stands at 22%.

It will compete with Vodafone Egypt and Egyptian for Mobile Services, both of which have built up extensive customer bases over the years in a country that has a reported 20 million mobile phone subscribers.

A number booking programme that commenced April 12 has seen 400,000 subscribers register for Etisalat’s service, which has been rolled out to a geographical area substantially wider than what is required under the licence conditions.

At the time of launch, Etisalat would have deployed no less than 760 base stations, many of them 3G-capable, reflecting a rollout period of just six months. By the end of the year the operator expects the number of base stations to have swelled to 2,500 base stations as Etisalat looks to extend coverage further and consolidate coverage in the areas in which it already offers services.

The Ministry of Telecommunications said in the statement the Egyptian mobile subscriber base is estimated to double over the next four years, in a country with an estimated population of 73 million.

Etisalat owns 66% of the operation’s shares with an annual royalty of 6% of gross operating revenues payable to the national regulator.

The other partners in the Etisalat consortium are the Egyptian Post Office, which owns 20% of the consortium’s shares, state-owned National Bank of Egypt with a 10% share and Commercial International Bank with a 4% stake.

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