Kuwait-headquartered telecoms operator Zain is seeking to enter the Egyptian market by obtaining a licence to operate a fourth-generation (4G) mobile network.

Zain informed the Kuwait Stock Exchange on 18 July that it has sent an official letter to Egypt’s Communications Ministry to “discuss the possibility of applying for the 4G licence”.

While two of the four telecoms operators are understood to have expressed in acquiring a licence to offer 4G services in Egypt, neither have sent an official letter to the ministry.

Egypt began selling spectrum 4G mobile phone services earlier this year, with state majority-owned Telecom Egypt (TE) understood to have expressed interest ahead of Egypt’s three mobile network operators (MNOs).

Egypt currently has three MNOs, comprising the Egyptian subsidiaries of France’s Orange, UK’s Vodafone and UAE’s Etisalat.

Egypt’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is understood to have set the prices of the 4G frequencies to be £E .5bn for both Vodafone Egypt and Orange Egypt, £E4.5bn for Etisalat Misr, and £E5.5bn for Telecom Egypt, with 50 per cent of these values to be paid in US dollars.

However, the price of the 4G licence would be separate from that of the frequencies, according to local media.

The older 3G remains the dominant mobile network in Egypt.

With a population in excess of 80 million, Egypt is a potentially lucrative market for 4G services.

Other countries in the Middle East and North Africa with significantly smaller populations have deployed more advanced versions of 4G.

The UAE’s Etisalat launched 4G services in 2011, and began rolling out the more advanced 4G long-term evolution (LTE) and triple-play services in 2015. Ooredoo Qatar completed the upgrade of its LTE network in the first quarter of 2016.

Tunisia’s Ministry of Communication Technologies & Digital Economy also awarded three MNOs a licence to operate 4G networks on 15 March.