By Muhammad Fowzi
Egypt’s various mobile service providers may see a spike in their profit margins following a recent decision by Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission to impose new fees and roaming charges on international calls made by Egyptians in the country. According to specialists working within the sector, these new prices will be determined by Saudi mobile service providers.
Mohsen Farid, former Director for Strategic Planning for the Egyptian mobile company Etisalat, predicted that the company would soon release a list of those benefiting from newly imposed fees and roaming charges placed on international calls. All calls made within the country are the responsibility of the commission he said, adding that any increase in the price of such services will be to the benefit of Egyptian mobile service providers.
He further said that the amount of profit and other benefits reaped by local providers will depend on the specific fee structure proposed by Saudi telecom companies.
He added that a number of international calls are made via the internet, and these do not fall under the jurisdiction of Telecom Egypt, a fact that has caused companies to suffer significant losses.
Regarding the rate of these new fees, they are set to change depending on the company, with prices for one minute ranging anywhere from EGP 2 to EGP 5.
Mahmud Abu Shadi, former Deputy for Telecom Egypt, stated that it was not in the company’s interest to increase roaming charges, saying that doing so may push more users to resort to making international calls via the internet, which in most cases is cheaper and often free. He added that it was still too early to tell who would be the largest beneficiary of the recent roaming charges decision made by the Saudi Arabian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
He went on to say that international calls made over the internet currently posed the biggest challenge to mobile service providers, causing them to lose out on a profitable section of the market both in Egypt and across the world.
A representative from one of Egypt’s mobile service providers said that prior to the commission’s decision international calling services offered by Saudi providers Zain Group and Mobily had been free. Such services were popular amongst users in Egypt, who were able to contact relatives in Saudi Arabia without having to route their calls through Telecom Egypt, resulting in losses for the company.
The source added that company revenues reaped from international calls and roaming charges have decreased markedly over the last two years as a result of the decrease in tourism seen since the outbreak of the 2011 revolution.
Mobily recently sent a mass SMS message to its users informing them of the commission’s decision, saying that such free services had ended effectively by the end of April 2013. The SMS further stated that new offers regarding roaming fees would soon be made by various Saudi service providers.