Qatari telecoms group Ooredoo, which holds the controlling stake in Moroccan cellco Wataniya Telecom (Nedjma), has expressed its full support for the recently launched 3G licence auction in Algeria. Ooredoo’s chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani commented: ‘We welcome the Algerian authorities’ decision to begin the process for granting 3G licences. As a long-term partner in the growth and development of the telecommunications sector in Algeria, Ooredoo will participate fully in this process’. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Algeria’s telecoms watchdog the Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecoms (ARPT) launched a tender for the authorisation of 3G mobile concessions on 1 August 2013. The regulator will award three licences to domestic mobile operators for the provision of 3G services; interested parties need to submit their tender applications and pay a fee of DZD1 million (USD12,590) before 15 August 2013. Moussa Benhamadi, Algeria’s Minister of Posts, IT and Communications, pledged that 3G services will be introduced to the country by November 2013; the government previously postponed the long-awaited tender in order to complete the acquisition of local mobile operator Djezzy, although the process remains ongoing.
According to a company press release, Nedjma has invested USD338.9 million in its infrastructure during the last 18 months, with a significant portion of the sum spent on 3G-ready technology and network enhancements; in preparation for 3G’s eventual arrival, Nedjma introduced a new dongle compatible with GSM, EDGE and 3G technology in February 2012. TeleGeography notes that Nedjma is the third largest cellco in terms of subscribers in Algeria, after market leader Djezzy and second-placed Algerie Telecom; the company had signed up 9.25 million subscribers by end-March 2013, corresponding to a 24.5% share of the Algerian wireless market.