Universal Service can be defined as the provision of affordable basic telecommunication services to all citizens especially in the economically non-feasible regions. This includes as well the fax and data services with speed rates that allow for accessing the internet within framework of technology neutrality and competitive environment.
The government of Egypt believes that access to information and telecommunications services at affordable prices is an inevitable right to all citizens. This aims to promote political, economic and cultural cohesion hence leading to economic development.
The universal service policy guarantees access to telecommunications services to all citizens at affordable prices, ensures free competition and non-monopolistic practices, enhances usage of modernised technologies in order to expand the scope of the provided services and consolidates the national political, economic and cultural interactions
Within the framework of the Egyptian Information Society Initiative, the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) introduced a Universal Service Fund (USF) with an initial budget of EGP 50 million. The establishment of the Fund in March 2005 was in accordance with the Telecommunication Regulation Law No. 10/2003 which has stipulated that NTRA is competent to manage the fund.
NTRA receives requests from different localities detailing their needs for working and operating in areas not served, (for example, North Sinai as a request was submitted to cover some roads).
NTRA reviews requests about current telecommunication networks (mobile and fixed) and arrange for future plans of the operators and look at the obstacles of implementing their networks in un-served areas, trying to help them to cover these areas.
If the business case still needs a subsidy from USF, the NTRA will ask the operators for an estimation of their costs and accordingly calculates the budget needed for subsidy. This budget is set as a ceiling for the reverse auction bid which would be held to cover areas not served. The winner company is the one requiring the lowest subsidy which amounts to be paid on installments tied with a time schedule and performance indicators.
§ Compensate telecommunications operators and service providers for “price differences between the approved economical price for a service and that which may be determined by the State in favor of the user”
§ Finance infrastructure projects required for establishing the universal service rule;
§ Fund projects of the telecommunication and information national plan;
§ Fund the reallocation of frequency spectrum
Economic Benefits of Equitable Access to Telecommunications Services:
§ Flourish modern employment market
§ Promote SMEs
§ Improve the marketing potentials of corporates to reach more customers
§ Increase in outsourcing services from developed to developing countries
Social benefits of the Equitable and Widespread distribution of Telecommunications Services
§ Eliminate the disparity between rural and urban areas, sometimes known as the domestic digital divide, which tends to be more obvious in lower income countries
§ Improve law enforcement
§ Attain rapid and effective communications during disasters
§ Improve the national political, economic and cultural cohesion
§ Strengthen kinship ties among citizens
§ Attain a more balanced population distribution to encourage the development of new areas outside congested metropolitan areas
Benefactors of Universal Service
§ Inhabitants of low-income high-cost areas;
§ Low-income citizens who cannot afford telecommunications services
§ The Disabled; Public institutions such as: schools, libraries and hospitals
§ Two projects are underway to provide telecommunication services to remote areas in South Sinai and North Sinai Governorates
§ A budget of EGP 60 million has been allocated to fund these two projects from Universal Service Fund. Operators have been informed that their first contribution to USF amount to 0.25% of their adjusted gross revenues to fund these projects
§ The first Request for Proposal (RFP) for these projects was issued in 2013. Winning Bidder is expected to be announced in 2014