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3G, fibre and mobile broadband continue to impress in Egypt

Despite some restrictions and censorship, which culminated in the 2011 political and social unrest, Egypt is one of the most developed Internet markets in Africa in terms of users, international bandwidth and services offered, according to Research and Markets.

The country was again ranked fourth among African countries in the ‘Networked Readiness Index' of the Davos World Economic Forum's 2010/11 Global Information Technology Report. It is well connected through national and international fibre infrastructure and one of Africa's first Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) deployments. Egypt also has some of the lowest prices for DSL services on the continent, the result of a highly competitive sector with more than 150 Internet and data service providers.

The strongest growth is currently seen in mobile broadband services, which offers the network operators – Mobinil (backed by Orascom and France Telecom), Vodafone Egypt (VFE) and Etisalat – new revenue streams in an environment of falling average revenue per user (ARPU). All three have also acquired controlling stakes in leading data and Internet service providers: LINKdotNET, Raya Telecom and EgyNet.

Egypt became one of the first countries in Africa to launch 3G mobile services, following the award of the country's third mobile licence in 2006. The record price that was paid for the licence indicated the potential that is seen in the Egyptian mobile market, and the penetration rate has indeed multiplied since then to more than 90% in early 2011. A fourth mobile licence is not planned before 2013.

Egypt also has the largest fixed-line market in Africa and the Arab region, with a highly profitable incumbent telco (Telecom Egypt) which was partially privatised through an IPO. A second national fixed-line licence tendered in 2009 received strong interest from international bidders, but the process has been postponed to at least 2013. Instead, two regionally limited triple-play licences for fixed-line voice, high-speed broadband and pay-TV services were issued in 2010. Efforts are underway to roll out next-generation networks, offering converged IP-based voice, data and entertainment services.

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