Interview: Yasser El Kady
How will licences be awarded in 2016?
YASSER EL KADY: Intensive negotiations and talks are currently taking place with respect to progressive telecom policies and to understand better the objectives of the different operators. The first thing to stress is that all stakeholders in the industry are now working together to move it forward for the benefit of the Egyptian citizen. Obviously there have been some disagreements between some of the players on certain issues like pricing and interconnection agreements, but they are all committed to resolving them in a fair and efficient manner. Priority areas of the overall ICT sector strategy have been set, and solution implementation is under way in many areas of focus.
On the telecoms side, after consulting extensively with the four main operators, it is very clear that the future opportunities in the sector are far greater than the current challenges. As such, we are planning to issue new 4G licences sometime over the coming year, so that we can expand data services. Given the extent of demand for those services, these licences will be open to existing mobile operators and to other entities and in order to prepare ourselves for this, the country’s communications infrastructure needs to be upgraded. We are working with Telecom Egypt (TE) on the former and are in discussions with a variety of government entities and players to free up bandwidth for the latter. There should be more frequencies available for 3G by early 2016 – which will greatly improve service for existing users – and for 4G by the end of the same year.
How is the ministry working to facilitate upgrades to the country’s communications infrastructure?
KADY: Egypt has four main operators: three mobile operators and TE, which is focused on fixed-line voice and internet, as well as on building and maintaining infrastructure for itself and others. The core of the network is, for the most part, in very good shape and ready to provide 4G services, but there still needs to be upgrades – and this is something that the mobile operators have expressed – with respect to back-hauling, especially in terms of replacing microwave with fibre. As such, we are facilitating discussions between TE and the others so that these issues can be resolved in the most efficient manner.
What role can IT play in the development of the Egyptian economy?
KADY: IT is vital to our future competitiveness, and offers a lot of opportunities for the country as a whole. We want to transform Egypt into a smart country, meaning that all services and utilities are controlled by IT systems. This is a new concept worldwide that is being pioneered in places like the UK, the UAE and Morocco, and it is something we want to begin rolling out across the country, starting with the new capital and then extending to tourist cities like Sharm El Sheikh. For instance, for the new capital, we are working to implement measures so that all utilities – including surveillance cameras, traffic engineering, sewage, electricity and the water supply – will be operated using smart systems.
Outsourcing/off-shoring is another area of significant opportunity, and a number of large multinationals have recently expressed interest in setting up operations in Egypt. Not only will such investment spur economic activity in general; it will also create a lot of job opportunities for young people.
Further to this, we are also working to set up seven technology parks across the country in order to help spur development in the sector. They will accordingly all have special areas for research and development, in addition to a range of incentives for companies wanting to set up operations within their confines. These efforts should lead to even more technological development in areas outside of Cairo and Alexandria.
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