The first press conference held by Minister of Communication Technologies Glai Haj, has been mostly that of a meeting of figures and letters with journalists. The minister provided a lot of figures highlighting the importance of ICT (Information an Communication Technology) in Tunisia and the achievements of this sector.
It was learnt that ICT sector accounts for 10% Tunisia GDP, that the telephone density (fixed and GSM) posts 94 lines per 100 inhabitants, exceeding the 40% African rate, that 45% of Internet users in Tunisia use 512 Kbps and that 212000 are currently connected to ADSL; this number will go up to 400 000 by the end of 2009.
We also learn, during Tunisian ICT minister’s first press conference, that Tunisia is planning to invest100 MDT to triple the area of El Ghazala technology hub which should be extended to Ennahli area in Ariana, that as many as 13 MDT will be devoted to the establishment of a new submarine cable aiming at improving telecommunications between Tunisia and Europe in particular, and that no less than 55 industrial zones in Tunisia hosting 1600 companies are fiber optic connected to allow them access to high speed, and that 1000 companies are currently enjoying WiMAX.
Tender for an universal operator.
As for the “letters», Haj Glai mainly talked about the invitation to tender for the choice of a new universal telecom operator. No less than 13 interested tenderers have already withdrawn the tender specifications. The Tunisian ICT Minister remained silent over the identity of those involved, but merely said that they are from Europe and the Gulf. He didn’t say a word about the assessment made by the Tunisian government as far as the financial aspect is concerned However , he said with an enigmatic smile that “we accept the market rule.”, revealing that the new operator will be granted a year-long grace during which he will enjoy all what the other two operators would not have. He will be the only one owning 3G and also, directly or through buying ISP, he will be the only Internet provider. Questioned on the possibility for the other operators, namely Tunisiana and Tunisie Telecom to have access to these privileges (technical and commercial) after the first year the future operator will be granted, the minister went equally cryptic.
ICT minister also answered questions about Internet in Tunisia. He made it clear that ISPs are distributors of Tunisia Telecom. He added that prices of different offerings that distributors are coming up with are not as high as reported by journalists. He pointed out that there is a real desire to lower Internet prices in Tunisia. Above all, he said the ministry is keen to improve the quality of services provided by ISPs in Tunisia. He mentioned a reorganization of the relations of these Internet access dealers with Tunisia Telecom, which is the only access provider. It emerged from the ministry’s remarks that Internet users and ADSL subscribers may check in the future some improvement in relations with their respective ISPs.
Latest news distilled during the press meeting: it deals with the new powers Tunisia National Telecommunications Commission will be tasked with: The regulating authority will be empowered to handle the Internet in Tunisia and so, will be the sole authority in this respect and in this field.