Algerie Telecom Mobile (ATM/Mobilis) has selected Chinese vendor Huawei to deploy its 3G network in the cities of Oran, Skikda and Ouargla. With Algeria’s long-awaited 3G licensing process rumoured to be close to completion, Huawei will provide multi-band network antennas for the deployment of the cellco’s long-awaited UMTS network. Meanwhile, Moussa Benhamadi, Algeria’s minister of Posts, IT and Communications, told Agence Ecofin: ‘The administrative record, which allows us to embark on the introduction of 3G and 3G+ [technology] is completed’. In the meantime, ATM Mobilis, Nedjma and Djezzy have been encouraged to prepare their 2G networks for the transition to 3G.
In related news, Benhamadi told Agence Ecofin that the initial March 2013 deadline for the formal introduction of 3G has been pushed back to allow Djezzy to complete the transfer of a 51% ownership stake from Russia’s Vimpelcom to the Algerian government. Benhamadi admitted: ‘If we waited since September 2011, why not wait a week or two to finish this [deal]? By that time the Minister of Finance will have [completed] the acquisition of the company’. The Djezzy deal is expected to bring an end to the increasingly bitter power struggle for control over the company. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that, throughout 2010 Djezzy and the Algerian government were embroiled in a bitter legal dispute, ostensibly over the payment of back taxes. However, the real issue was the government’s attempt to derail Vimpelcom’s pending acquisition of Djezzy owner Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH). In September 2010 Vimpelcom agreed to merge its telecoms assets with those of OTH, including its Algerian arm, in a transaction valued at USD6.5 billion. The Algerian government, unhappy at the move, attempted to block the deal since, according to the terms of legislation passed in 2009, Algiers was supposed to have first refusal over Djezzy if Orascom ever opted to sell the lucrative mobile unit.