Major African Mobile Markets: Tunisia

 

The Republic of Tunisia is a developing nation, with agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism forming the most important sectors. In 2016, the services sector, which includes banking and financial services, besides tourism, the economy was earlier primarily dependent on agriculture but has now strengthened its industrial segment, which constituted approximately USD 1.7 billion FDI Inflow.

Currently the Population of Tunisia is 11.40 Million with Population growth rate of 1.01%.The government has played an important role in encouraging competition in business, introducing reforms, increasing privatization, etc., thus making it attractive for foreign investments and driving the growth of the economy. Tunisia finalized the process of dismantling tariffs for industrial products in 2008, becoming the first Mediterranean country to enter into a free trade area with the EU. Recent decreasing import demand in Europe has caused real growth to slow since 2008, but a recovery in agricultural production and strong growth in the services sector have mitigated this decline.

 

Table 1 provides an overview of the country's key economic parameters.

To stimulate competition, the government launched a tender for a fixed-line services license so as to promote broadband Internet access and prop up mobile telephony services

Table 1: Tunisia - Economic Parameters (2017-2018)

Economic Parameter Value
Population 11.40 million
Population Growth Rate 1.01 percent
Unemployment Rate  14 percent (2016)
GDP (PPP) USD 11,600 billion
GDP real growth rate 1 percent (2016)
FDI inflows USD 1.7 billion

Source: CIA Factbook

 

Telecom Industry Overview

Tunisia has one of the most developed telecommunications infrastructures in the Northern African region, with some of Africa's highest market penetration rates, and information technology is projected to contribute 13.5% of GDP in 2011. Mobile phone subscription rates have continued to grow since over the last decade, showing a CAGR of 8.57% during 2005-2008, while fixed-line subscribers have declined slightly at a CAGR of -0.30% over the same period.

The former government-owned telecom operator Tunisie Telecom was part-privatised in 2006, opening up the industry to competition from other providers. France Telecom-owned Orange was licensed as the country's second fixed-line and third mobile operator in June 2009 and began providing providing 3G services in May 2010. The internet sector has developed rapidly, supported by a nationwide fibre-optic backbone and some of the lowest broadband prices in Africa.

Tunisia has one of the most developed telecommunications infrastructures in the North African region and sports some of the continent's highest market penetration rates. The mobile sector has experienced exceptional growth since the introduction of competition in 2002. A nationwide fibre optic backbone and international access via submarine cables, coupled with some of the lowest broadband prices in Africa have supported rapid development of the Internet sector.

Table 2 provides an overview of country's key indicators in the telecom sector.

Table 2: Tunisia - Telecom Industry Snapshot November 2017

Segment Subscriber (millions) Penetration (%)
Fixed-line 1.10 9.6%
Internet Mobile 7.46 65.4%
Internet Fixed 0.81 7.1%
Mobile 14.53 127.5%

Source: IINT

 

Source: Blycroft Publishing

Figure 1 illustrates the trends and forecasts for mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Tunisia for the 10-year period from 2002 to 2011.

Figure 1: Tunisia - Mobile Subscribers and Penetration (2002-2011)

Source: Blycroft Publishing

Mobile Network Operators

There are three mobile network operators in Tunisia - the incumbents Tunisie Telecom and Tunisiana, which each accounted for approximately half the existing subscribers at the end of 2009, and Orange, which began operating in May 2010.

Figure 2 illustrates the market share of the operators in terms of their subscriber base for June 2005.

Figure 2: Tunisia - Market Share of Mobile Network Operators (June 2010)

Source: Company Reports

The three operators currently providing mobile services in Tunisia are discussed below.

Tunisie Telecom

Tunisie Telecom was the first mobile operator in Tunisia and was completely owned by the Tunisian government until it was part-privatized in July 2006, when a 35 percent stake was sold to a consortium of TECOM Investments and Dubai Investment Group (TECOM-DIG).

The operator's GSM network covers 100 percent of the urban population and 85 percent of the rural population. The operator also provides value-added services, such as SMS, voice messaging, etc. Tunisie Telecom had 6 million mobile subscribers at 2011.

Tunisia's telecom market will be one of the fastest-growing markets in the Africa/Middle East region with total telecom revenue estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5.4 percent over the next five years, reaching $2.2 billion in 2014.

Figure 3 illustrates the ownership split of Tunisie Telecom

Tunisiana

Tunisiana launched its mobile services in December 2002. The operator's total network coverage extended to 99 percent of the total population in 2005. The operator also provides value-added services, such as voicemail, SMS and fax service, and had 5.2 million subscribers at the end of 2009.But Currently Tunisian is the leading Player in telecom sector of Tunisia as it covers 55% of market till 2010 .

The major shareholders of the operator were Wataniya Telecom and Orascom Telecom, where Orascom Telecom Holding had a 35% stake, Wataniya Telecom had 50% and Carthage Consortium 15%. Subsequently Qtel (which now wholly owns Wataniya) has acquired the Orascom stake.

Figure 4 shows the previous ownership structure of the operator .

Figure 4: Tunisiana - Ownership Structure (2011)

Source: Company Reports

Table 4 provides an overview of the operator's key performance indicators.

Table 4: Tunisiana - Key Performance Indicators (FY end-December 2004)

 

KPI

Value

Subscribers (Millions)

6

Revenue (Million USD)

558

Monthly ARPU (USD)

NA

Annual Churn (%)

NA

CAPEX (Million USD)

76

 
 

Source: Company Reports

Orange

France Telecom-owned Orange was granted the licence to become Tunisia's second fixed-line and third mobile operator in June 2009, and officially launched its new service in May 2010. Orange will provide the country's first nationwide 3G network, providing services including video telephony, mobile TV via WAP and video surveillance services, and aims for its 3G network to cover 98 percent of the population by the end of 2011. The operator will also provide broadband services over a 400 kilometre fibre backbone, and plans to invest TND 1 billion (USD 670 million) by 2015.

In 2010 the Tunisian government awarded it the country's first 3G licence. According to Informa, the operator had 748,000 subscribers, placing it third behind market leader Orascom, which has 6 million and Tunisie Telecom, which has 4.3 million subscribers.

The Tunisian government has seized a 51 percent stake in Orange Tunisia. Earlier this month, it was rumoured that a draft cabinet decree calling for the seizure of all assets held by former president Ben Ali and his family was imminent. The Mabrouk Group, owned by Marwan Mabrouk, the son-in-law of the former president, owned 51 per cent of Orange which, it was speculated, was about to be taken over by the new government.

Figure 5: France Telecom - Orange - Ownership Structure

Recent Developments

 On 22 June 2016 the European Investment Bank said it would finance EUR 105 million (USD 116 million) of the EUR 200 million (USD 220 million) Tunisie Telecom (TT) is to invest in the deployment of its 4G network. The funds will also be used for related investments in the backbone network and IT systems. 

In Mid-July 2016 Ooredoo Algeria initiated the pre-commercial launch of its 4G network in Tlemcen. This follows the preliminary award of a 4G license and is a few days ahead of the official launch of the services, also in Tizi-Ouzou and Becha. 

Tunisie Telecom (TT) announced on 23 August 2016 that it had successfully closed its bid to acquire the majority stake in the Maltese mobile operator Go. Tunisie Telecom now holds some 66,281,050 common shares representing 65.4 percent of the shareholding of GB. The remaining 34.6 percent is traded on the Malta Stock Exchange, allowing a local shareholding to be maintained. 

In October 2016 Tunisie Telecom (TT) completed a series of trials of G.fast technology over its broadband infrastructure, in partnership with equipment provider Adtran. The tests were carried out during the summer, and achieved a speed of over 800 Mbps using copper lines over a distance of approximately 100 metres.

At the end of 2016 the government was set to sell its holdings in Orange Tunisia and Ooredoo in 2017. A decision was still expected at the time as to whether to sell the stakes by tender or via the stock market.

Orange had a 49 percent stake in Orange Tunisia, which has more than 4.5 million mobile subscribers, whilst Ooredoo Tunisia has some 6.5 million mobile subscribers. 

Tunisie Telecom (TT) and Ooredoo agreed on 24 January 2017 to share a radio access network (RAN) to provide high speed connectivity to 192 rural areas in the Governorate of Siliana, in Northern Tunisia.

Tunisie Telecom (TT) started a two-year rollout of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) infrastructure.The facility will provide fixed broadband speeds of up to 300Mbps via VDSL Super Vectoring.

In March 2017 the ministry of communication technology and digital economy (MINCOM) launched the tender process to award spectrum licences in the 863-870 MHz band, suitable for IoT services and applications. 

The tender process closed on 31 March after feedback was received from seven start-up companies that participated in the consultation that was held between 20 May and 17 June 2016 by the national frequency agency, with the aim of defining the terms and conditions of the spectrum allocation. 

June 2017: The Instance Nationale des Telecommunications (INT) published a decision detailing a number of QoS obligations for mobile network operators and MVNOs.  The new measures were first proposed in a consultation document published in February 2017, and include the quality indicators for 2G/3G/LTE services and their evaluation, based on technical performance, interconnection and customer support. 

For data services, mobile operators have been tasked with delivering a faster average 3G/LTE download speed in the coming years, with 4 Mbps until 29 March 2019 to 7 Mbps between 30 March 2019 and 29 March 2021. After March 2021 the average 3G/LTE speed should reach 10 Mbps. In these three time periods operators are also required to provide an average LTE download speed of 10 Mbps, 20 Mbps and 30 Mbps respectively.

July 2017: The Ministry of Communication Technologies and the Digital Economy awarded Tunisie Telecom the contract to provide 3G and 4G telecoms network coverage in 94 'white' areas located in 15 governorates. The decision followed from the running of the national tender for the project, launched on 17 March 2017. Tunisie Telecom was the only bidder.  The contract is valid for a year. 

The National Telecommunications Authority (INTT) on 23 August launched a call for tenders for the recruitment of a consultant to carry out a study on the taxation of the national telecommunications sector. 

October 2017: Watany Telecom was flagged to be the second Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) after Lyca Mobile, with the official launch of the service scheduled for the first quarter of 2018. The MVNO will be hosted on Tunisie Telecom’s network and will primarily target the Libyan community in the country.  Ericsson is working as a technical partner on the new service, while two communication agencies are preparing the launch campaign.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy announced on 27 November 2017 that the Abraaj group has acquired the 35 percent stake previously held by Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT) in Tunisia Telecom (TT). 

Tunisie Telecom (TT) has won a contract to deploy 3G/4G networks to so-called white spots (areas that are currently uncovered) in a six-phase programme by the Ministere des Technologies de la Communication et de l'Economie Numerique (Mincom). 

The deal was signed on 17 November 2017 by the Minister of ICT, Anouar Maarouf, and Tunisie Telecom President and CEO, Fadhel Kraiem, Agence Ecofin reported. 

 

 

Future Outlook

The information and communication technology sector in Tunisia is an increasingly important part of the economy. In 2008 it contributed 10 percent of the country's GDP, and is expected to reach 13.5 percent in 2012. The government has placed many of its services online, and over 80 percent of the total ICT sector revenue is generated by state and public enterprises. With continued investment in infrastructure and education planned for the future, Tunisia aims to remain a world leader in promoting ICT and its importance in government policy.