According to a forecast by the IT consultants firm, Gartner Group, Egypt's cellular phone market will become the third largest in the Middle East and Africa by 2003, following Turkey and South Africa.
Ashraf Iskander of Gartner told the Egyptian business daily Al-Alam Al-Youm that he expects that in the next three years, cellular user population will grow to 5.74 million — around 8.9 percent of Egypt's total population — from the current figure of 1.4 million.
Growth in the Egyptian mobile phone market has been rapid. A government monopoly began operating in 1996, but charges were high and subscription rates low. Since the sale of the monopoly to the MobiNil consortium (comprising Orascom Telecom, France Telecom and Motorola), and the entry of a second operator, Click GSM, competition has become fierce.
Both companies have labored to secure the loyalty of their subscriber base, while seeking to attract those pre-paid users who are the key to mass use of mobile phones. MobiNil has begun to offer subscribers WAP services as well as Internet banking through Orascom Telecom's Internet service providers (ISPs), while Click has offered free second lines and 'poached' MobiNil customers by offering to pay their outstanding bills.
Both networks are currently anticipating the entrance of a third operator to the market in 2001, the soon-to-be-privatized Egypt Telecom.
The mobile phone has been enormously popular in Egypt. In a country that is short on inexpensive consumer goods, the mobile has become an affordable status symbol — models are compared in offices, coffee shops and in the street and are a ready index of the owner's social status or aspirations.
The manager of a foreign-owned gym in Cairo, realizing this, has offered all Click subscribers a week's free membership in an effort to attract the 'right sort' of clientele. Moreover, Egyptians love to talk, to the extent that the Italian restaurant in Cairo's five star Conrad hotel asks diners to hand their phones in at the door. No trip to a Cairo cinema is complete without a chorus of ringing phones.
All this is good news for Click and MobiNil. MobiNil, which currently has about 60 percent of the market, has long been the star of the stock exchange, though its parent Orascom Telecom, which has mobile licenses in 18 countries, may eclipse it. Click's IPO is scheduled for next year, and is sure be oversubscribed by investors who want to cash in on Egypt's appetite for communication. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )