Following a rejection to buy 4G licences by all three of Egypt’s operators – Vodafone Egypt, Orange Egypt and Etisalat – because they did not agree with the terms on offer, the government is now considering auctioning them on the international market.

Only fixed incumbent Telecom Egypt acquired a licence for EGP7.08 billion ($797 million) because it wants to enter the mobile market directly, Reuters reported.

Egypt’s telecom regulator NTRA will also look into other ways of launching 4G services and “options will be presented to the board of directors at its next meeting in early October,” it said in a statement.

Operators like Zain, China Telecom, Saudi Telecom and Lebara KSA have expressed interest in the licences.

Vodafone Egypt said it rejected the licence because it did not offer enough spectrum to operate 4G services, and confirmed it is still interested if terms and conditions are revised to “encourage future investment in the development of Egypt’s mobile industry.”

“We want to launch 4G in Egypt as soon as possible… Vodafone will work alongside the Egyptian government to try and achieve this,” it said in a statement.

Payment objection
According to Reuters, last month the operators had also objected to the condition that 50 per cent of licence payments should be made in US dollars.

A senior telecoms ministry official said at the time the terms had been revised to include more spectrum but no change to the licence payment conditions.

The auction is part of the Egyptian government’s strategy to reform the telecoms sector and raise dollars.

“Egypt needs hard currency after burning through its foreign exchange reserves as political turmoil hit foreign investment and tourism since a 2011 uprising,” the report said.

According to a report last month, the government hopes to raise EGP22.3 billion from the entire process.