As Orascom Telecom prepares to split its assets and found the new Orascom Telecom Media & Technology (OTMT) for the third quarter this year, its Egyptian telecoms operator Mobinil is optimistic it will reach an agreement with the Communications and Information Technology Ministry over the right to build its own fibre-optic network and an end to the arbitration with state-owned operator Telecom Egypt (TE) over interconnection rates.

“We agreed a comprehensive settlement with the previous minister Tarek Kamel, but due the changes in TE and the ministry things were put on hold, but we are hopeful we’ll pick up where we left off late last year,” says Alex Chalaby, chairman of Mobinil. The operator is expecting a response within the month.

Mobinil is also after an international gateway licence, similar to Etisalat Egypt, which paid $100m for the gateway in 2006. “There was a formula in the initial offering of the international gateway, which was based on the number of subscribers on the network and that made it extremely expensive for us as it would have cost us $1.5bn,” he says.

Chalaby says they have “no incentive” to pay such an amount and it would be more reasonable to have one price for all operators.

The company’s proposal to build its own fibre-optic infrastructure would give users in the country more diversity. “Currently, we lease lines from TE. We will save a lot of money if we have our own fibre-optic network and international gateway. It will make up for reduction in proposed interconnection rates,” says Chalaby.