Major African Mobile Markets: Tunisia

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The Republic of Tunisia is a developing nation, with agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism forming the most important sectors. In 2009, 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 10.62 Million with Population growth rate of 0.978%.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 (2010-11)

Economic Parameter Value
Population 10.62 million
Population Growth Rate 0.978 percent
Unemployment Rate 14 percent
GDP (PPP) USD 100.3 billion
GDP real growth rate 3.4 percent
FDI inflows USD 1.7 billion



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

Segment Subscriber (millions) Penetration (%)
Fixed-line 1.279 12.35%
Internet 3.5 33.40%
Mobile 9.754 95.38%


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 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)




Subscribers (Millions)


Revenue (Million USD)


Monthly ARPU (USD)


Annual Churn (%)


CAPEX (Million USD)



Source: Company Reports


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

Investment in Telecommunications Infrastructure: -

With the arrival of Orange, Tunisia now has a 3G network that will cover 98 percent of the population by 2011, and Orange have begun unbundling local exchanges for broadband, further opening up competition in the internet market. There are plans for further expansion of the country's IT infrastructure with the announcement of a USD 3 billion deal from Vision 3 to develop the Tunis Telecom City concept. This is described as "the first in a planned network of telecom cities, [...] designed to cater to the location, infrastructural, research and development, educational and support service needs that will allow telecoms and I.T. sector organizations to flourish." Taking advantage of Tunisia's stable economy, labour supply and proximity to Europe, the project aims to provide an environment that will foster investment, education and research in telecommunications.

1Q11 Tunisia Mobile Operator Forecast, 2010 - 2015: Tunisia to have 16.7 million mobile subscriber connections in 2015 with Tunisiana (Orascom Telecom) taking 58% market share

Future Outlook

The mobile market in Tunisia has grown at a rapid pace since 2002, and exceeded 93 percent penetration in 2010. Competition between the two major mobile providers has driven down activation and usage charges. Additional services such as mobile email and multimedia messaging will become more widely available with the introduction of 3G, and Orange has been in talks to distribute the Apple iPhone in the country. Other developments include the increasing use of mobile phones for payments, and several Tunisian banks have already begun to integrate payment by GSM into their services.

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.