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 Thursday, January 17, 2008

The launch of Etisalat in Egypt in the second quarter of 2007 was much anticipated, not least because more than eight years of duopoly in Egypt had seen the rate of mobile ownership climb to just one-quarter. At first glance, the addition of a third player appears to have energised the market, with net additions topping 3 million for the first time ever in Q2, and Q3 setting a new record of 3.73 million. The size of the total market stood at 26.99m at the end of September 2007, up from 15.87m a year earlier - a growth rate of 70%.

In addition, both Mobinil and Vodafone posted their highest ever figures for net additions since the launch of Etisalat, Vodafone claiming 1.32 million in Q2 and Mobinil 1.82 million in Q3. Of course, Etisalat itself also contributed to the growth of the market, gaining almost 0.7 million customers in Q3 to reach a total of 1.30 million, compared to 11.97 million for Vodafone and 13.72 million for Mobinil.

Egypt: Proportionate Customer Growth, Q4 04 - Q3 07

Etisalat's arrival has undoubtedly had a positive effect on the Egyptian mobile market, but the above figures may exaggerate the level of its impact somewhat. A glance at the proportionate growth rates yields a less dramatic picture. In each of the two quarters since Etisalat's launch, growth has been at around 16%, a respectable figure but not a particularly impressive one given that penetration was just 25.1% at the end of Q1. Moreover, when Etisalat's contribution is factored out the combined growth rate of the other two operators is around 13% in the first three quarters of 2007, which is roughly the same level as in 2005. Of course, there is a strong possibility that quarterly growth would have remained in the single digit figures recorded in Q1 and Q2 06 had a third player not launched, but this does not alter the impression that neither Mobinil or Vodafone has quite shaken off the ‘comfortable duopoly' mindset.

At the end of Q3, penetration in Egypt stood at just 33.5%. This is by far the lowest rate across the five North African nations, with Morocco in fourth place on 57.9% and Libya the most penetrated on 86.2%.

Source: Cellular News.