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Orange puts in 4G licence request in Egypt despite auction snub

Orange Egypt has applied for a 4G licence in Egypt, backtracking on its decision to abstain from bidding in the country’s recent auctions.

While the operator did not participate in September’s government auction as it disagreed with the available terms, its request is now being considered by Egyptian regulator NTRA. Neither of its fellow operators – Etisalat and Vodafone Egypt – lodged bids either.

The only party to acquire a licence was fixed incumbent Telecom Egypt, which is looking to move directly into the mobile market rather than forming partnerships with other operators, as it has been doing. The fixed provider spent EGP7.08 billion ($797 million) on its new licence.

Orange noted at the time of the auction that while it would be keen to invest in 4G in Egypt, it believed that “the quantity of spectrum currently availed does not allow to launch a 4G service with the required level of quality according to all international standards”, and noted “we will remain available to discuss the 4G licence further in case a new framework is offered.”

Another factor deterring operators was the stipulation that they must pay 50% of the fees for the licence in US currency, part of the government’s drive to increase its dollar reserves while reforming the telecoms sector.

Following the last auction, NTRA said it would consider opening up 4G licences to international bids, with operators such as China Telecom, Lebara KSA, Saudi Telecom and Zain all showing interest.

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