Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Pressing for a cheaper Internet

Ahmed Kotb reports on a new campaign to boycott Internet services provided by mobile operators

Al-Ahram Weekly

A call to boycott Internet services provided by Egypt’s mobile phone operators has spread through a Facebook page called “Internet Revolution Egypt” demanding lower prices and better quality Internet services. The page, which currently has about a million likes, chose last Thursday to start its first boycott of the services.

According to Ahmed Abdel-Nabi, co-founder of the Facebook page, the boycott, which lasted from 5-10pm, achieved a “huge success” with five to eight million Egyptians either removing their SIM cards or putting their mobile phones on flight mode to stop them receiving or making calls.

“The three companies providing mobile phone services in Egypt suffered losses of  LE4.5 million at least as a result of the boycott,” Abdel-Nabi told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that the success of last Thursday’s boycott had encouraged them to prepare a second one soon.

“Now we have to continue to put pressure on the companies in order to make them lower the prices of their Internet services,” Abdel-Nabi stressed.

 The three mobile operators, Mobinil, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat Misr, provide mobile and landline Internet services at almost the same rates, which are considered very high by many customers.

Telecom Egypt (TE), the landline monopoly operator, mainly determines the prices of landline Internet services because of its control over infrastructure and strongly rejects calls for a cheaper Internet.

According to the Internet Revolution Egypt, “TE is preventing any drop in the prices of high-speed Internet services because it refuses to lower the cost of renting Internet infrastructure to other companies.”

TE has more than 60 per cent share of the landline Internet market in Egypt.

Following last week’s boycott, a meeting of TE’s board decided to redeploy Sayed Gharabawi, the company’s vice-president for business affairs known for being against reducing Internet services prices, as an advisor to the company’s CEO.

Khaled Hegazi, external affairs and legal director for Vodafone Egypt, the largest mobile network operator with more than 40 million subscribers, told the Weekly that calls to boycott his company because of poor Internet services “don’t make any sense.”

“We as mobile phone operators are not responsible for the pricing or quality of landline Internet services,” he stressed.

As for the impact of the boycott, Hegazi said that the numbers published by the Facebook page were far from accurate. “It is very hard to determine which subscribers participated in the boycott, but I believe the losses will not be noticeable,” he said, explaining that most customers buy prepaid services that they will use sooner or later.

He stated that TE had 100 per cent control over Internet infrastructure, making the state-owned company responsible for pricing Internet services.

“I believe that landline Internet costs in Egypt are high and should be reduced,” Hegazi said, adding that his company had only about a seven per cent share of the landline Internet market in Egypt and could not increase its share by attracting more customers through offering lower prices because TE controls the infrastructure.

The Weekly received no response to requests for comment from TE.

Hegazi said that the country’s mobile phone operators, including his company, had reduced the prices of their telecom and mobile Internet services over the years. He said a minute of mobile phone communication had cost LE2 in the late 1990s but had since gone down to LE0.10.

There are an estimated 24 million mobile Internet users in Egypt, according to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), while there were only 3.2 million landline subscribers in the first quarter of 2015. Mobile phone subscriptions in Egypt are estimated at around 96 million.

The Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Khaled Negm, pledged price reductions for Internet services within the next few weeks and promised higher Internet speeds at lower costs.

In a press statement, Negm said that he had decided on the move in April, but implementation had been postponed due to “challenges” that his ministry would overcome soon.

Many public figures and well-known television presenters announced their support for last week’s boycott campaign, which is believed will be followed by other boycotts soon and until Internet users in Egypt feel happy about the quality and cost of services.

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