Tunisia’s regulator consults on launch of LTE services
As a result of heavy investments in the telecom sector since the mid-1990s, Tunisia has one of the most developed telecommunications and broadband infrastructures in Northern Africa, sporting some of the continent’s highest market penetration rates and lowest prices. The events of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolution in 2011 drove the country into a mild recession, but GDP growth returned to pre-crisis levels the following year and is expected to remain stable at around 4.5% from 2015 onwards. Nevertheless, subsequent political difficulties have had an impact on the telecom sector, notably causing the delay in the sale of EIT’s 35% interest in Tunisie Telecom, the country’s fixed-line incumbent which offers a full range of services.
The mobile sector has experienced exceptional growth since the introduction of a second GSM network in 2002, operated initially by Egypt’s Orascom under the name Tunisiana and now by Qatar Telecom (Qtel) which rebranded it to Ooredoo. France Telecom/Orange entered the market as the third operator in 2010 and launched Tunisia’s first commercial 3G mobile service, followed by Tunicell in 2011 and Tunisiana in 2012. HSPA+ services with up to 42Mb/s using dual carrier technology are now available, while there are moves to develop commercial LTE services by the end of 2014 or early 2015.
Ooredoo and Orange are also licensed as fixed-line operators and have launched DSL and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) services. In addition, eleven ISPs compete in this sector, supported by a nationwide fibre optic backbone network and international access via submarine and terrestrial fibre. The former government encouraged and promoted internet use but at the same time kept tight control by restricting access to certain websites. A reform of the country’s Telecommunications Act was initiated in 2013 and government internet censorship was officially abolished. In addition, laws supporting e-commerce and digital signatures have been passed, which has led to one of the most active e-government and e-commerce sectors in Africa.
In mid-2014 the regulator put in place a number of new measures and rules centred on consumer rights in the telecom sector. It also affirmed its commitment to implement a universal service regime and Number Portability in a bid to encourage market competition, as well as develop a mechanism to encourage infrastructure sharing agreements among operators.
Market penetration rates in Tunisia’s telecoms sector – July 2014
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Ooredoo Tunisia and Tunisie Telecom sign a RAN sharing deal; MVNO Lycamobile planning launch of services to capitalise on expat Tunisians; regulator opens consultation on LTE services; FttP and VDSL2 vectoring services launched, offering data at up to 100Mb/s; X-Labs develops mesh WiFi networks; MNOs call for committee to manage launch of LTE services; Didon submarine cable makes landing in Tunisia and is lit for services to Sicily and beyond; minority stake in Tunisie Telecom delayed through political difficulties; reform of Telecommunications Act initiated; government’s censorship of the internet s officially abolished; 3G mobile broadband growth outshines fixed-line broadband; report includes the regulator’s market data to May 2015; telcos’ financial and operating date to Q2 2015, recent market developments.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Tunisie Telecom (Tunicell), Orange (France Telecom), Ooredoo (Tunisiana, Orascom, Wataniya, Qatar Telecom/Qtel), Planet Tunisie, 3S GlobalNet, HexaByte, Tunet, Topnet, Divona Telecom, Thuraya, Nokia Systems and Networks (NSN), Huawei Technologies, ZTE, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson.