Telecommunications Sector Reform in Tunisia: Progress and Challenges Ahead
June 13, 2013
Tunis, June 13, 2013 - Substantial progress has been made in Tunisia’s telecommunications sector but the economy would benefit from further reforms to improve competitiveness and encourage investment according to World Bank experts and participants at a workshop held today.
The event brought together Tunisian government officials, ITC business leaders and civil society representatives who discussed progress on the main steps undertaken by the Government of Tunisia in the area of telecommunications reform and the challenges ahead. The workshop was held in advance of discussions on future sector reforms between the Government and the main stakeholders to be held in Tabarka this weekend.
“Substantial progress has been made in the sector over the last few months,” said Carlo Rossotto, Lead ICT Policy Specialist at the World Bank. “This progress includes the approval of amendments to the Communications law to increase the powers of instance national des telecommunications. It also includes the introduction of a regulatory framework to allow for access to the landing station of Bizerte and the approval to use backbone fiber optic held by utilities including STEG and SNCFT. All of these reforms will go a long way to help improve service and access to telecommunications in Tunisia.”
Despite these advances, several challenges remain. ITC services in Tunisia are expensive creating an obstacle for foreign direct investment. While Tunisian prices are in line with ITC prices in the Maghreb they remain expensive compared to non-regional competitors. Incoming international communications prices in Tunisia are 11 times more expensive than in Turkey as measured by current Skypeout rates. This is a substantial obstacle to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and trade integration. In addition, it would take over 40% of the monthly income of a family belonging to the poorest 40% income bracket in Tunisia to afford a mobile broadband package or a fixed broadband package.
Competition in the sector remains limited. For example, there is limited competition among operators of international communications while in Eastern Europe there are on average 10 international operators in each country. When compared with countries that have introduced a more comprehensive reform in the sector Tunisia shows a considerable room for improvement. Countries that were substantially at the same level of telecommunications development of Tunisia 15 years ago, like Romania and Lithuania, are now among the best performers in Europe.
“Tunisia stands to gain substantially from further reforms to the ITC sector,” said Eileen Murray, World Bank Resident Representative for Tunisia. “Lower prices and better services will attract higher quality investment in Tunisia and possibly lower prices and improve access for all Tunisians.”
The workshop concluded with suggested reforms that would help Tunisia to bridge the gap including: the introduction of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as part of the planned virtual network operator (VNO)/mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licenses, the introduction of global VNO/MVNO licenses, reduction of wholesale access prices, introduction of unbundling of the local loop framework, and increased competition in international communications.
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