Vodafone numbers drop as mobile subscribers make the switch

Sherine El Madany
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Two months after launching Egypt’s mobile number portability (MNP) service, the number of subscribers who switched networks constitutes 0.02 percent of total mobile subscribers, said telecom experts.

MobiNil has so far managed to grab the biggest share at some 16 million subscribers. Vodafone Egypt comes second at 14 million subscribers, while Etisalat Egypt has managed to pull in around 1.98 million subscribers since it began operations last May.

These figures show that Vodafone Egypt’s share has lost around 2 percent of its market share, to Etisalat Egypt during the first quarter of this year.

“This percentage is not alarming to us because we rely on quality of users rather than quantity, commented an official at Vodafone Egypt, explaining that the key is number of minutes per call rather than number of users.

Etisalat Egypt officials were not able to comment by press time. “The number of users who made the switch is only a fraction of total mobile subscribers, Hany Mahmoud, vice president of corporate affairs at Vodafone Egypt, told Daily News Egypt. “So far, the number of network switchers hovers around 7,000 users out of some 30 million mobile subscribers.

Egypt’s National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) launched early April the MNP service, which enables mobile phone users the flexibility to switch from one mobile network to another for a LE 75 fee. The new service enables mobile users to keep thes same number when making the switch. The NTRA has stipulated that users remain with their original network operator for at least one year before being allowed to use the new service.

Since its launch, the MNP service has been hailed as a successful move that will prompt mobile operators to offer better quality services at more competitive prices to attract more subscribers.

However, two months is much too short a period to pinpoint where consumer behavior is going, according to Mahmoud. “It will take around six months to evaluate effects of the MNP services on operators’ subscriber pool, especially because the services are offered to retail consumers only and not corporate. We’ll have to wait until October or November until we can accurately measure consumer behavior.

Any switch will depend on operator’s promotions and quality of service. Each company says its subscribers are going to increase, but no one really knows what will happen, he added.

Mahmoud previously explained that international data shows that MNP switch rates range between plus/minus 5 percent. The main catchphrase to win the MNP race, he stated, is better service quality and coverage rather than affordability.

“The decision to make the switch will not be based on lower pricing as much as on service quality and coverage. At the end of the day, the three mobile operators want to make profits.and therefore will not be able to heavily drop prices because they could lose, he said.

Vodafone Egypt is quite upbeat on the new service after pouring in heavy investments in infrastructure to enhance capacity of its network – bringing total number of network stations to 5,400 before official launch of the MNP – in preparation for any subscriber upsurge.

Statistics show that number of mobile phone subscribers has been on the rise in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country. According to the NTRA’s recent records, the number of mobile phone subscribers soared to 32.167 million in the first quarter of this year, up from 30.047 million at the end of 2007. Mobile penetration now stands at 43 percent of the population and is expected to exceed 50 percent at the end of this year.

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