Vodafone Group raises concerns over Egyptian unified licence plans

5 Mar 2014

Vodafone Group has reportedly said that it could consider international arbitration should the Egyptian government approve legislation under which fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt (TE) will gain access to the country’s mobile networks. According to Bloomberg, the British company is cited as saying that ‘all outstanding issues to ensure fair and equitable treatment across the industry’ should be assessed by the Egyptian authorities prior to granting such approvals. Vodafone has argued that under the proposals not only would TE be unfairly favoured, but a conflict of interest could be created. As per the plans, the unified licence agreement which TE is expected to be given will allow it to roll out mobile voice services without constructing its own infrastructure; in return Egypt’s cellcos will gain access to the incumbent’s fixed line network. With final approval for the licensing plan anticipated within the next couple of weeks, a company statement by Vodafone added: ‘Vodafone looks forward to hearing the government’s response to our concerns, in light of which we will assess what steps might be necessary to protect our shareholders’ interests, including possible commencement of international arbitration proceedings.’

Meanwhile, an unnamed person familiar with the matter was cited as saying that complaints regarding the plans relate in part to the fact that the unified license will only offer limited access to TE’s older copper network, with no provision for access to its fibre infrastructure. Further, it has been claimed that the rules lack clarity on TE’s control over international calling traffic and the rates the incumbent would pay for a mobile license. In response to such claims, Hesham El Alaily, executive president of Egypt’s National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority, noted: ‘We aren’t discriminating against any company, they will have equal rights and duties … We are putting plans for the whole market to grow.’