CAIRO: Cairo ICT (Information and Communication Technology) continued yesterday with discussions on various topics including third-generation mobile networks and e-government. Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Tarek Kamel, said at the opening of the conference that the tender for the third mobile license will be announced next week.
Two licenses for international calls will also be granted later this year; companies will initially be required to use Telecom Egypt s infrastructure but will be permitted to build their own infrastructure after two years.
In a move to improve broadband internet service, the licenses of internet service providers will be amended as of Feb. 20 to enable them to obtain international bandwidth.
Such liberalization of the telecommunications market has stimulated business for information technology companies and network vendors. Vincenzo Nesci, chairman of Alcatel Egypt, spoke to The Daily Star Egypt about his company s progress and plans in the country.
Alcatel s presence in Egypt dates back more than 30 years, when the company provided equipment and services primarily to Telecom Egypt as the only telecommunications operator in the country. Alcatel also supplied equipment for two Nilesat satellites.
Today, Alcatel s regional headquarters in the Smart Village serves 15 countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan; approximately half of its business is from the sale of equipment and services for mobile operators. The company supplied the equipment for the first mobile network, which was initially owned by Telecom Egypt but later sold to a consortium of private investors, including France Telecom and Orascom Telecom, and became Mobinil.
As a result, Alcatel enjoys a strong relationship with Telecom Egypt, Mobinil and Orascom Telecom. This provided the company with a critical mass of local business and justified the establishment of a regional base in Cairo.
The existence of substantial local manpower also prompted the establishment of an international service center in Egypt, which carries out network projects both locally and abroad. The center started in 1998 with eight engineers and has grown today to 250 engineers serving 74 countries. [These are] people who are very proud of being Egyptian, Nesci explains, very well-connected to the Egyptian technical and economic reality, but who are also capable of moving around the world.
The service center recruits engineering graduates from public and private universities. Our policy is to hire fresh graduates with a very good record, says Nesci.
The graduates are trained in the company s regional training center in Cairo, in which Alcatel has invested 5 million euros; the training center staffs nine qualified instructors with project experience. It also provides instruction to Alcatel s customers in the region as well as current students from a number of local universities and institutes.
Unlike many businesses in Egypt, Nesci has no complaints about finding the right skills. We have no problems in hiring the right people, says Nesci, adding that he plans to employ an additional 120 engineers for the international service center this year. The new engineers will support the company s plans to expand its services in the region.
Nesci emphasizes his conviction that Alcatel should be socially and economically involved in Egypt. We are here as a company which has an economic role, which is here to sell its equipment, to make a profit and to be able to expand, Nesci explains. But we consider also that we have a social role; that we have to really be part of the economic and social fabric of the country.
This role includes developing local capabilities for the benefit of Alcatel as well as the economy in general. Training also complements job creation, which Nesci cites as the ultimate goal. It s nice to train people, says Nesci, but it s much better if you can offer a job to someone.
Nesci refrains from expressing specific difficulties with doing business in the region. It s not a particular challenge here [or] in the Middle East, says Nesci. Life is a challenge, competition is a challenge. You have to always be one step ahead; you must never relax.
Nesci explains that Alcatel, while based in France, has developed a model of management in which is independent of nationality. We try to be a multinational which is national everywhere we go, says Nesci. We try to develop local capabilities, local management.
Alcatel officially inaugurated its Content Development Center (CDC) last month. The CDC provides equipment to businesses for hosting online mobile services. Businesses are selected by a committee and five companies currently make use of the center s facilities.