Egypt

Telecoms law

Egypt is a member of the International Telecommunication Union since 1876.

The activity of the wire and wireless communications industry was started in Egypt in 1854 when the first telegraph line was inaugurated between the Governorates of Cairo and Alexandria. The first telephone line established between the said Governorates in 1881.

Eastern Company was the first provider of local telegraph services in Egypt. In this regard, a series of agreements entered into between Egypt and Eastern Company in 1874 and 1932 and, then Egypt signed an agreement with British Company, Marconi, in 1926 to provide international telegraphic services in Egypt. In 1957, all assets of Eastern and Marconi Companies were transferred to the Ministry of Telecommunications by virtue of the provisions of Law No. 107 of 1957.

In 1957, Egypt established an authority called the Wire and Wireless Communications Authority to provide and regulate the wire and wireless communications in Egypt. According to the Presidential Decree No. 709 of 1957, this authorized was affiliated to the Ministry of Transport.

In 1980, the Wire and Wireless Communications Authority was replaced with the National Authority for Wire and Wireless Communications (the “NAWWC”). According to Law No. 153 of 1980, NAWWC had the sole right to provider and regulate the wire and wireless communications under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport.

In 1996, by virtue of Law No. 153 of 1998, NAWWC was transformed into a joint stock company to be owned by the State and called the Egyptian Company for Telecommunications (the “Telecom Egypt” or “TE”). According to Article 2 of the said law, TE shall take the form of a private juristic person.

According to Article 4 of Law No. 19 of 1998, TE had the sole right to establish telecommunications networks; provider wireless and wire telephone services, manage, operate, serve and maintain any necessary installations and equipments required for provider said services. TE had also to cooperate with international telecoms providers and NGOs to link Egypt with the outside world.

In 1998, the Wire and Wireless Communications Authority (the “WWCA”) established by virtue of the Presidential Decree No. 101 of 1998.

In 2009, a Presidential Decree No. 376 of 2009 established a new ministry called the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (the “MCIT”) for the purpose of regulating the ICT sector in Egypt.

In February 2003, the Parliament enacted the current Telecommunication Law No. 10 of 2003 (the “Telecoms Law”). By virtue of the provision of the Telecoms Law, WWCA has been replaced with the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (the “NTRA”).

By virtue of Article 60 of the Telecoms Law, NTRA was required to issue a license in favor of TE, for free of charge, to exclusively provide the fixed telephony services, whether was directly provided by TE or through other any of its subsidiaries, provided that the State must hold the majority of capital of such subsidiaries. In this regard, the aforementioned license was required to be valid until December 31, 2005. Following this date, the said exclusive right shall be terminated.

Regulator (NTRA)

By virtue of the Telecoms Law, NTRA shall has a juristic public personality and be affiliated to the MCIT.

The core mission of the NTRA is to regulate the telecoms sector and encourage the national and international investments in compliance with free competition law. NTRA shall also ensure that Egypt performs all its obligations under the conventions to which it acceded. In this regard, it is worthy to note that Egypt is a member of the International Telecommunication Union (the “ITU”) since 1876. Furthermore, Egypt is a contracting state to the World Trade Organization (the “WTO”)’s agreements related to the results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and, therefore, Egypt shall comply with the relevant scheduled commitments of Egypt and the WTO Basic Telecoms Agreement. In this regard, it should be noted that Egypt has no reservation on the WTO Basic Telecoms Agreement.

Licensing legal framework

NTRA usually grants its licenses through (i) a direct agreement between NTRA and telecoms provider; or (ii) a competitive tender. However, each license usually takes a form of telecoms license agreement (the “Telecoms License Agreement”) which must be confidential and may not be disclosed to third party without a written consent of NTRA.

According to the Telecoms Law, provision of telecoms services in Egypt without obtaining a license from NTRA is prohibited. Furthermore, according to Art 31 of the Telecoms Law, the licensed telecoms operators in Egypt are prohibited in any case, from assigning their rights under the Telecoms License Agreement to third parties unless a prior approval of the NTRA is obtained, otherwise, unlicensed telecoms providers must be subjected to many penalties such as follows:

  • a fine of up to EGP 500,000 (approximately USD 83,000); and/or
  • imprisonment of the responsible manage for a period of between six (6) months to five (5) years.

Furthermore, in any case, the competent court must order the confiscation of all the equipment, sets and connections used in provision of the unauthorized telecom services. In event of passing unauthorized international calls, the court must also order a compensation to be paid by the unlicensed telecoms providers.

Types of Telecoms Services Licenses

Telecoms services licenses may be mainly classified as follows:

1)     Data Services

  • Global Peering (this license allows its licensee to build and operate the infrastructure necessary for connecting between class A and B licensees, e-content providers, domain name providers, and data centres).
  • Internet Class A (this license allows its licensee to set up, manage and operate the core infrastructure necessary for offering internet services without the right to offer voice telephony services).
  • Internet Class B (this license allows its licensee to set up, manage and operate the core infrastructure necessary for offering local and international data transfer only without offer voice telephony services).
  • Internet Class C (this license allows its licensee to offer free internet services at the same tariff of fixed telephony calls).
  • Registrar (this license gives the licensee the right to act as Registrar for the Arabic ccTLD of Egypt .masr (.مصر)).

2)     Fixed Services

  • Pay Phone (this license gives the licensee the right to import, set up, operate and maintain public phone cabinets, within Egypt, that allow the public to carry out local national and international phone calls as well as calls to mobile phone networks).
  • PPCC (this license gives the licensee the right to prepaid calling car services (local national. International vice calls and mobile phone calls) for fixed line telephones within Egypt, and may establish, manage, and operate networks that offer and market the prepaid calling card service).
  • Fixed Telephony (this license gives Telecom Egypt the right to set up and establish the core infrastructure of telecoms networks to offer fixed local and international telephony services as well as fax.).
  • Triple-play (or Access) (this license give its licensee the right to construct and operate fiber-based communications networks and provide the value-added wireless and wired services (such as WIFI services) by using the allowed frequencies in closed compounds throughout Egypt providing that the total number of the units in each closed compound must be no less than fifty (50) units and no more than ten thousand (10000) units and they should be established on a total area of at least four (4) Feddans).

3)     Satellite Services

  • GMPCS (this license gives the licensee the right to set up, manage and operate the core infrastructure necessary to offer Global Mobile Personal Communication System (GMPCS) services through Tharaya systems).
  • VSAT (this license gives the licensee the right to set up manage and operate the core infrastructure of a VSAT satellite network to offer (i) data transfer, video, and audio services locally and internationally (except for radio and television broadcasting); (ii) connection to internet services; and VPN).
  • Nilesat (this license gives the licensee the right to operate satellite and their associated satellite ground stations provide digital communications and terrestrial Direct-to-Home (“DTH”) TV, radio broadcasting, multimedia and data services).
  • Navigation (Aviation) or (Marine) (the permit gives the holders the right to provide GSM 1800 services aboard aircrafts while flying over the Egyptian airspace, within its territory and the additional allocation for Aeronautical Mobile Satellite Service (AMSS) on secondary basis in the frequency range 14-14.5 GHz, and 10.7-12.75 GHz).

4)     International Services

  • Submarine Cables (this licensee gives the licensee the right to set up, operate, and rent submarine cable network and the core infrastructure necessary for establishing International Communication).
  • International Services & Gateway (this license gives the licensee the right to set up, operate, and rent the core infrastructure necessary for establishing International Telecommunication Gateways).

5)     Infrastructure Leasing

 This license gives the licensee the right to rent the core infrastructure of telecommunication networks, including: building, land, structures, machinery and equipment, cables, towers, antennas and pillars, communication, lines, systems and programs and electricity feeding group.

6)     Mobile Services

  • GSM 2G & 3G (the 2G license gives the licensee the right to utilize 2G & 2.5G technologies, and provide the following services: MMS, call barring, roaming, call waiting, voice mail, call forwarding, conference calling, SMS, SMS to email, missed call notification, file download and data transfer … etc. However, the 3G license gives the licenses the right to utilize broad band 3G technologies to transfer data with speeds much higher than GPRS technology can offer. The operator of 3G may also offer the following services: Video calling, video messaging, file download, audio/video streaming and high speed data transfer).
  • SMS “One to Many”.
  • SMS “One to One”.

7)     Wireless Trunk

This license gives the licensee the right to offer individual and group speech and data calls for closed user group using Terrestrial Trunked Radio).  

8)     Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)

This license allows the licensee to provide the AVL services to money and oil transfer companies in order for these companies to be able to follow vehicles and identify its directions and speed via satellite.

Miscellaneous information

MVNO:

NTRA is still in the process of drafting and applying a licensing framework for MVNO.

Wi-Max:

Wi-MAX licenses have yet been allocated, but tests have been completed and Wi-MAX technology has been deployed within the framework of a pilot project in two cities: Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh.

The right to access to the Local Loop:

Licensed network services providers are allowed to access the local loop with TE to co-locate their digital subscriber line access multiplexer and provide broadband data services using ADSL technology, while maintaining Telecom Egypt’s rights over voice services.