Orange and Investec, a Tunisian subsidiary of the Mabrouk group, have announced the launch of mobile, fixed and internet services by Orange Tunisia, making it the country’s first truly convergent telecoms operator. The partnership represents an important step forward for France Telecom-Orange – which holds 49% of the company – and its development in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Indeed, the start-up of Orange’s activities in Tunisia marks the group’s first steps into Maghreb.
Commenting on the launch, Didier Lombard said: ‘Today, Orange is proud to associate itself with Marwane Mabrouk to build Tunisia’s first genuine convergent telecoms operator. I have full confidence in this kind of partnership, which brings together a strong local actor with a global operator. Together we are committed to a project that will transform the Tunisian telecommunications market, and which in turn will help the country on its way to joining the world’s most competitive economies. Our commitment to this partnership also enjoys a particular intensity thanks to the historic, cultural and economic ties that traditionally exist between France and Tunisia.’
The launch of Orange Tunisia has been eagerly awaited ever since it secured the country’s second national operating license in June 2009. Orange Tunisia says it will invest TND1 billion to launch operations and install the country’s first 3G network. The W-CDMA-based network covers the majority of Tunisia’s major cities and will be expanded throughout 2010.
Orange said that the network already covers the majority of Tunisia’s major cities and added that overall coverage will be doubled by the end of the year.
Orange Tunisia hopes to gain traction in the market through a network of nine shops and 400 distribution outlets. The operator added that it will employ about 1,500 people by the end of the year.
The launch is also another milestone in France Telecom’s plan to ramp up expansion in the Middle East and Africa as it sets about doubling the amount of revenue it generates in emerging markets.
According to a recent report from UK-based analysts Onda Analytics, the Tunisian telecom market, which has a mobile penetration rate of about 90%, holds significant potential and is likely to see further interest from “outside parties”.
The research firm said that foreign companies could be interested in the 35% stake in Tunisie Télécom that is currently held by EIT, a holding company for telecoms investments made by Dubai Holdings,
The increasingly competitive environment in Tunisia may prompt EIT to consider listening to offers from operators interested in joining the market, according to Onda Analytics.