CAIRO: In a lavish setting, Etisalat Egypt announced the launch of their services on May 1, downplaying the anticipated pricing war in favor of a promise of better services and quality.
The company, which won the bid for the third mobile network license mid last year for LE 16.7 billion, announced the start of two lines of services: prepaid and postpaid. The first charges LE 0.39 per minute while the latter charges LE 0.34 per minute.
While Mobinil offers the prepaid services in the price range of LE 0.35-LE 0.45 and Vodafone offers it for LE 0.39, it was clear that Etisalat lived to the promise it made in July 2006 not to venture into a pricing war.
Mohammed Hassan Omran, Etisalat chairman, told The Daily Star Egypt last year that pricing war was unlikely. Experts speculated the same.
To the disappointed of potential users, the promises proved to be true for the most part. Company officials said all prepaid cards would be sold according to the numbers mentioned on the cards without extra fees, something that the other networks don’t offer.
On the other hand, Vodafone Egypt is currently keeping a stiff one eye on Etisalat s services and promotions in order to determine its next move and future plans to beat competition on the market.
Our next move will not necessarily entail lower pricing or better promotions. There are numerous factors that shape consumers preferences, said Omar El-Sheikh, corporate affairs director at Vodafone. These include wider coverage nationwide, quality of services, voice clarity, and pricing.
Prices are not everything. For example, if the voice is breaking up during a call, consumers will seek better quality even if it means higher prices.
During the press conference celebrating the launch, Etisalat officials focused on services and quality.
“We present the best services according to international standards, said Saleh El Abdooli, Etisalat Egypt CEO. He referred to the 3.5G services the company would offer including high speed internet mobile access, mobile TV, and audio and visual phone calls. “I don’t think there is another network that offers such wholesome package.
Vodafone has just acquired the 3 G license and is expected to operate it this month. Mobinil is still working with 2.5 G license.
Other company officials also focused on the quality of these services. Hazem Metwally, chief commercial officer, highlighted the benefits of using a new network, still uncluttered by users. This is, of course, beside the promised better sound quality.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the competition isn’t on. It started even before Etisalat Egypt launched its services, with both competitors waging one promotional campaign after the other.
After both company’s offered lifetime subscriptions to their prepaid services, Etisalat Egypt had no choice but to offer something event more attractive: lifetime free minutes. All prepaid subscribers would get five minutes free every month for life.
Etisalat launch in Egypt is expected to spark competition among the currently three operating networks in the country, which will in the end better serve customers in Egypt, said Amr Badawy, executive chairman of the National Telecom Authority.
Etisalat will bear such competition. It s a well established company with solid financial capabilities. Badawy also predicted that the telecommunications sector in Egypt would experience further development and growth, offering new services and increasing number of subscribers now that there are three operating networks in the country.
But the launch remains incomplete. National roaming, which allows the company to use the networks of its competitors until it builds an elaborate network of its own, and number portability, which allows subscribers to keep their numbers while changing networks, are still not operating.
Vodafone and MobiNil hold a 5050 market share in Egypt. Both networks are currently conducting negotiations with Etisalat to begin deploying number portability and national roaming services. Etisalat will use Vodafone networks in the southern provinces of Egypt and MobiNil ones in the Delta and northern provinces.
Etisalat officials promised both services would be working within a month.
Etisalat Egypt expects to have three million subscribers by the end of this year and 10 million in the first three years.