CAIRO: Local mobile operators have been granted 30 days to reach a roaming agreement, National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority Chairman Amr Badawy said Tuesday.
Roaming negotiations have been ongoing since Etisalat won the third operator’s license for LE 16.7 billion last July. An agreement would allow Etisalat to use the facilities of existing operators Mobinil and Vodafone, alongside the company’s own network under construction, to achieve full coverage for its users.
Badawy’s comments came at the conclusion of a media-telecommunications convergence conference in Sharm El Sheikh, during which he also defended the authority’s decision to ban Mobinil from waiving monthly subscription fees for its pre-paid users. The move he said, affected the base calling rate and must first have been approved by the NTRA.
NTRA’s rejection of Mobinil’s attempt to lower its rates further raised tension between the two sides after Edge technology negotiations broke down in February. Badawy said the authority has received numerous complaints regarding the quality of service provided by Mobinil, adding the company should concentrate on increasing its infrastructure spending to cope with the growing market.
Earlier this week, Mobinil announced it has allocated LE 1.5 billion for infrastructure upgrades. Mobinil CEO Alex Shalaby has even hinted the company is considering acquiring a 3G license, but did not go into the specifics of negotiations with NTRA. The acquisition of the license, he told reporters at the Sharm El Sheikh conference, will come at the discretion of Mobinil and the time of its choosing.
Mobinil is now the lone operator without a 3G license. In January, Vodafone acquired the license for LE 3.34 billion plus 2.4 percent of annual profits. Vodafone is set to begin offering the service following the launch of Etisalat set for the second half of May as announced by the Minister of Communication and Information Technology last week.
On the international calling license front, Shalaby announced during the conference Mobinil is now preparing a proposal to acquire one of the two licenses to be offered according to the conditions set by NTRA.
Badawy had opened the door earlier this month for existing mobile operators to apply for the licenses, due for release as early as January 2006, but did not make public the conditions set by the authority.