CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is looking to add 500,000 new Internet users by the end of 2015 and increase its internet penetration rate to 50 percent from 34 percent by the end of 2016, communication minister Khaled Ali Negm said.
The communication and information technology ministry mandated reduced prices at the start of August as part of its plan to expand Internet access across Egypt and improve speeds.
“Every 10 percent increase in Internet penetration increases Egypt’s gross domestic product by 1.8 percent,” the minister told Reuters in an interview.
The ministry hopes to add 1.5 million additional users by the end of 2016 to its current base of 3.4 million ADSL broadband users and increase the minimum speed to 2 megabits per second from the 1 megabit per second currently offered, he said.
Since the lower prices came into effect at the beginning of August, 31,000 new Internet subscribers have come online. “By the end of 2016, the Internet in Egypt will look completely different,” Negm said.
Egypt will also begin offering 4G mobile services in the first quarter of 2016 and allow Telecom Egypt, the country’s landline monopoly, to become the country’s fourth mobile provider, the minister said.
The government approved a unified license last year, opening the way for Telecom Egypt to offer mobile services in competition with Vodafone Egypt, Etisalat and Mobinil, but implementation has been delayed repeatedly.
Asked about whether Telecom Egypt, which is 80-percent government owned, would have to sell its 45-percent stake in Vodafone in order to participate in the unified license, the minister said: “We will preserve the company’s assets and maximize them,” but did not elaborate.
Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Tom Heneghan