Although Tunisia decided very early on to invest in telecommunications and connect itself to the worldwide web, this was certainly not to be confused with freedom of information. Faced with censorship, users soon found multiple ways to circumvent it, and social networks became widely established as a means of unfettered expression. “With the revolution, there has been a dramatic surge in Internet traffic, which saw a twofold increase in 2011 and experienced a similarly strong growth rate in 2012”, explains Mongi Marzouk, current Minister of Information and Communication Technologies. Telecommunications now have a central part in mo-dern Tunisian history, and the government is making a determined effort to liberalise them.
Plummeting landlines and soaring mobiles
Tunisie Telecom, the incumbent operator, has one of the most modern telecommunications networks among Mediterranean countries. However, landline phone services are generating an estimated annual loss of $62.5 million. Like everywhere else, the advent of mobile telephony and flat rate plans have completely revolutionised the market. With a 118.6 % penetration rate in December 2012, the number of mobile subscribers keeps soaring. Among the three operators competing for market share, Tunisiana stands ahead, followed by Tunisie Telecom and Orange Tunisie, which is steadily closing the gap.
Internet: 3G changes the rules of the game
Internet browsing has increased exponentially since the launch of 3G by Orange in 2010, followed soon after by Tunisie Telecom, then by Tunisiana, which obtained its licence in May 2012. Now all three operators are roughly on a par in the struggle to win customers with their landline + mobile + broadband packages.
So what are the benefits of competition?
Opening up of the Internet, change to optic fibre, forthcoming arrival of 4G… Tunisia seems set to meet its own challenge. Operating as a public enterprise, Tunisia Telecom is still fighting on unequal terms with the two private operators. By changing its governance system and forging partnerships, the incumbent has a good chance of succeeding in its uphill struggle. The race between the three operators is having a dynamising effect, driving the sector towards increased know-how and a greater focus on listening to the needs of private and business customers. In other words, an enhanced use of its leading-edge technology.