The minister of communications and information technology has denied reports that the prime minister took control of the state’s project to establish a fourth mobile network.
A statement published on the ministry’s website on Thursday said that the Cabinet designated Communications Minister Atef Helmy as the head of a new committee to supervise the launch of the new mobile network.
Earlier on Thursday, the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) had reported that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb had taken Helmy out of negotiations to establish the network, and took the process over himself. AMAY claimed the move came after the Emirati-owned mobile company Etisalat and the British-owned Vodafone met with Mehleb to submit official complaints against the fourth network, and threatened to withdraw their investments in Egypt if it began operating under the current arrangement.
The Cabinet has had a hard time getting the country’s fourth mobile network off the ground. The new license would be operated by the state-owned Telecom Egypt, which has the exclusive rights on fiber optic networks in Egypt, and which also owns a 45 percent share in Vodafone Egypt.
The three companies currently holding licenses to operate mobile networks in Egypt, Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat, have voiced strenuous objections to issuing the new license since 2013, saying that would not be able to compete and the state-run company would have an unfair market advantage.
There have been repeated announcements that the license for the new network would be issued, most recently in March — but the finalization process was postponed to a later date.