Mohamed Abdullah, CEO of Vodafone Egypt, has said that the company has been in negotiations with the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) to start trial operation of 5G services in the New Administrative Capital.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Abdullah about the company’s development plans, in which he revealed that the communication network development comes on top of the company’s priorities in 2022. Vodafone Egypt built 590 portable communication towers recently, and obtained the initial approval to build 250 towers more, in addition another 100 towers pending approval.
What is Vodafone’s plan for the next year? How did you handle COVID-19 crisis during 2020 and 2021?
We have several basic axes for the company’s strategy during the coming period, which includes enabling the state to achieve digital transformation and financial inclusion by providing technological solutions to support major national projects.
We are also a strategic partner for the state in various national projects, as we always seek to conclude new partnerships with the public and private sectors to achieve digital transformation, sustainable development goals and Egypt’s Vision 2030.
Among our priorities is also to improve and develop the services provided to customers, especially digital services that facilitate the life of the citizens and help them in daily tasks, and prepare the network to provide services and solutions that keep pace with technological progress.
So far, Vodafone’s investments in the Egyptian market have amounted to more than EGP 70bn, including the value of the new frequencies. We are keen to increase our investments in Egypt while focusing investments in infrastructure and the network in line with the state’s vision to implement the digital transformation system.
The company recently invested nearly EGP 8bn to obtain new frequencies to improve and develop the network and the level of services provided, and we are currently working on developing an optimal preparedness strategy for these frequencies. We have paid 50% of the value of these frequencies, while the second instalment is due in January 2022.
We seek to prepare and develop the network for the 2600 MHz band, and we are currently working on developing an optimal readiness strategy for these frequencies.
Vodafone Egypt has also pumped more investments into the network, approximately EGP 3bn to prepare the network to use the new frequencies and update the used technology.
Despite the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the telecommunications market witnessed a remarkable economic growth for several reasons, the most important of which is the rapid development in digital infrastructure, which resulted in the signing of agreements for telecom companies to obtain new frequencies. These frequencies will contribute to raising the level of quality of services in the telecommunications sector as one of the most important pillars of economic development in Egypt.
The infrastructure of the New Capital is a major focus that attracts investment, which has encouraged the company to conduct the 5G experiment in the capital in coordination with the NTRA.
The pandemic has proven the importance of communications and information technology, and emphasized the need to invest in supporting digital transformation. Vodafone has taken many steps during the pandemic through the Vodafone Cash service or other services that were a strong start that pushes other sectors to adopt technological solutions, as well as the success of Vodafone in facing challenges, as more than 80% of customer service employees are now providing the service from home. We have also achieved great success in achieving the process of financial inclusion and transferring money via mobile phone through Vodafone’s e-wallet “Vodafone Cash”, which accounted for 65% of the total number of subscribers of electronic financial wallets, according to the report of the National Telecommunications Authority. It is worth noting that Vodafone is one of the first companies that worked to implement the digital transformation process within its basic strategy and stems from the company’s belief in the necessity of digitizing various services in order to facilitate the life of clients.
Do you expect to obtain the new frequencies soon?
Communication is currently underway with the government to receive the largest share of frequencies in the Egyptian market, which will make a leap in the quality of service by increasing the capacity of the network infrastructure, which will reflect positively on the level of services provided to citizens. We are working on setting a time plan in cooperation with NTRA to receive the new frequencies. The company has currently built 590 portable communication towers recently, and obtained the initial approval to build 250 towers more. In addition, we are waiting for a response to construct nearly 100 other towers.
How does the company see the potential of 5G services in Egypt?
The company is conducting many meetings and discussions with NTRA regarding the launch of 5G. We aim to start trial operation of the 5G services in the New Administrative Capital, and the proposals are currently being studied technically with NTRA regulators, and we are still in the process of studying and exchanging ideas.
Are there new investments that will be pumped to develop 4G services?
The company has previously invested more than EGP 9bn in the network development in terms of infrastructure and quality of service, in line with the launch of the 4G services in Egypt, in addition to increasing 4G frequencies, which cost about $335m.
How does the company see the market orientation towards building partnership towers? How would this impact local competition?
We are currently studying the idea and its feasibility for Vodafone Egypt and for the company’s customers, as strengthening the network in specific areas and investing in building new towers is very important and has a direct impact on Vodafone customers and their trust in the company and the brand.
Therefore, the project must be studied and evaluated well before taking any decision in this regard to ensure that the optimal service is provided in the areas most in need of development.
What is the company’s vision for developing mobile money transfer services in terms of introducing new services or expanding it, especially as Vodafone Cash is one of the most used e-payment services?
Vodafone has placed the development of the future of electronic wallets and achieving financial inclusion among the main objectives of the company since 2013. We were one of the pioneers in planning and developing electronic payment services via mobile phone.
According to statistics, 90% of the financial transactions that take place through electronic wallets are made through Vodafone Cash. Vodafone topped the number of electronic wallets in the Egyptian market, with 65% of the total number of used wallets, for the first half of this year 2021.
The number of electronic transactions executed using wallets increased by 175%, reaching 81 million electronic transactions in the first half (H1) of 2021, compared to 29.5 million electronic transactions in H1 of 2020.
The number of Vodafone Cash users has reached about 11 million users in Egypt, and one of the distinguished services provided by Vodafone Cash is the pension payment service in cooperation with the National Authority for Social Insurance and the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
We have also introduced a number of new services through Vodafone Cash, namely, transferring from credit and purchasing cards to the Vodafone Cash wallet and transferring to other wallets for Vodafone Cash customers as well, paying bills and paying service dues such as water, electricity and gas, and paying any educational expenses, as well as providing donations to various organizations, shopping and online payments.