- 1 Balaton
- 2 Vodafone Egypt
- 3 Orange (formerly: Mobinil)
- 4 Etisalat
- 5 WE by Telecom Egypt
Egypt has the biggest mobile phone market in Africa with 4 network providers:
- Vodafone Egypt
- Orange (formerly: Mobinil)
- WE (by Telecom Egypt)
The three first providers have a similar footprint and 2G and 3G in the populated areas. Orange, once called Mobinil used to be market leader, but lost this position in recent years to Vodafone. Etisalat is the newest arrival, but almost on par in coverage now. So speed and coverage depend heavily on your local position to the closest antenna.
- 2G is on 900 MHz (and 1800 Mhz on Etisalat only), 3G up to HSPA+ speed on 2100 MHz.
In 2016 landline operator Telecom Egypt became the first operator to acquire a 4G/LTE concession. They've launched in September 2017 offering 2G, 3G and 4G services via Orange Egypt with whom they inked a roaming deal in 2017 for the next years. The other providers also received licenses for 4G/LTE.
For 4G/LTE licences are given out on 700 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz (Bands 1, 3, 8, 28) with 1800 MHz (B 3) as primary band. Some of these bands are used for 2G and 3G too, what has affected the 2G/3G service. After some delays 4G/LTE services have been finally starting on all providers in 2017.
According to OpenSignal report of March 2019 4G/LTE availability is around 60% through all networks with Vodafone topping the list at 67%. Download 4G speed is on average 8-9 Mbit/s with Orange topping at 10 Mbit/s.
For buying a prepaid SIM card, you have to visit one of the shops of the providers, show your passport and give them a local address (like your hotel address).
In 2015 operators confirmed reports that the national regulator NTRA had blocked VoIP services on all mobile networks, although this was denied by the regulator. It's technically prohibited to make international calls from mobile networks under Article 72 of the Telecommunications Law, which forbids the “by-passing [of] international telephone calls by any means whatsoever.”
The blocking of VoIP makes international calls from Egypt very expensive. For now, all mobile operators, but not all landline/ADSL providers block VoIP. That's why there might be still a chance to use it on a WiFi, or elsewhere through a VPN tunnel.
The Egyptian Stamp Tax is a tax collected for the Egyptian Tax Authority by the providers. It's set at EGP 6.10 annually and imposed on every subscriber. From 2012 every mobile user has to pay this tax. It's divided by 12 months and EGP 0.51 charged monthly on every local prepaid account too.
Obtaining a SIM card
While the quality of the data services provided are almost always excellent, obtaining and maintaining a SIM with data package can be a daunting task. As with many many things in Egypt, reliable and official information might be hard to come by. It is best to print this page (or save an offline copy), as the information here will be the most accurate you will get. Some tips to limit the frustration:
- Ask the representative to switch your account language from Arabic to English so all SMS notifications and voice menus are in English.
- If you arrive via CAI airport, buy a SIM at one of the shops in the arrival area. If you exit the baggage claim and look toward the exit, the shops are in the 2 o'clock direction. Ignore all the people who tell you that they have better or cheaper options, or offer to drive you to to a friend for a "good deal".
- In Alexandria, visit the city centre mall for official shops. They are friendly and speak good english.
- At Marsa Alam airport, Vodafone, Orange and Etisalat all have booths in the luggage collection area. They'll install the SIM and setup the plan. Pay in Euro. Make sure the quoted data allowance is 'real' eg a '20GB' plan could be 13.8GB plus 6.2GB on WhatsApp, Facebook etc. 'Up to 120GB' may actually mean '60GB on WhatsApp, 2GB bonus for the next day and 38GB for remaining data'.
- Hurghada airport: Vodafone, Orange and Etisalat all have booths after luggage collection and customs check but before you reach the public area. Pay in Euro. Similar to other airport booths they should do the setup for you but make sure the quoted data allowance is 'real' eg a '20GB' plan could be 13.8GB plus 6.2GB on WhatsApp, Facebook etc.
- Searching google maps for "Orange" or "Vodafone" will list dozens of shops, but they are a mixed bag. Some are closed, some are for business customers only, some can't sell SIM cards. If you have time to kill, they might be an option. If you need the SIM card, stick to airports and malls.
- Data volume is relatively cheap in Egypt. If you think you might need some data, go for the bigger packages right away. While topping up is always possible, activating a new data package might not. Arab only text messages, hard to navigate menus and outdated websites can make booking a follow up package a challenge.
- If you can't buy the SIM card at an airport or mall (i.e. when you are inside a tourist resort in Hurghada), the small souvenir shops can help you out. They do not have access to the procurement system, so they sell used SIMs or SIMs registered to someone else. The upside: The SIM will not be linked to your name, so if you somehow manage to get on the radar of the authorities while browsing, the won't kick your door.
- Besides that, dealing with the small souvenir shops puts you in a disadvantage. While you phone is stripped of it's old SIM and out of your hands, you are not really in a good bargaining position. Check what package you get, check the charged amount, trust this page. Stand your ground when he tells you your options are "only for residents", "no longer available", or he has a better deal. Be prepared for additional sales pitches, and the whole process to be made confusing by them. Be friendly and state the facts.
These obstacles should not deter you from obtaining a SIM card. They are examples of what you might encounter. Your experience might be different. Access to mobile internet is a must have in Egypt, as it is your most reliable source of information.
Vodafone Egypt, half owned by Telecom Egypt, has become the biggest provider in Egypt with a 44% share of the market. It overtook Mobinil (now branded Orange) in 2011 and offers a good coverage at pretty high rates. For 4G/LTE Vodafone started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.
Voice and data plan
Vodafone in Egypt has a broad variety of different voice prepaid SIM cards called el-kart with various start-up prices, validities and voice and text rates. They are called Worry free, 14 Piasters, Maret 10 pt and per Second. Sales price is LE 20-25 with some credits. Not all brands may be on offer in every store (locator). No data is included in any starter pack, so for data it doesn't matter which plan to choose. A Stamp Tax of LE 0.51 per month applies to every plan.
You can top-up by scratch cards sold in 7,000 outlets throughout the country. Using a credit card online on your profile. Many expats find that it's easiest to top-up at a Vodafone shop directly.
Important: around 30% taxes and fees will be subtracted at the time you top up by any means (voucher, online or in-store).
Vodafone offers data-only SIMs too. They can theoretically be added by the same packages below. Be aware that it's almost impossible to book another data package once your original package is consumed. You can't login to the web portal, as this requires a call, and you can't call from a data-only SIM. The USSD codes don't work for data only SIM, and hotline and website are not really helpful. In official Vodafone stores, a new data package can be activated, but finding one can be a daunting task. If you need a lot of data volume, it might be the best option to buy the biggest package right away at the airport or choose a voice and data plan instead.
Data feature packs
Default rate outside of bundles is LE 0.25 per MB on most local SIM cards. Vodafone offers the following monthly data packages as add-ons to all of their prepaid lines:
|LE 0.75||10 MB||1 hour||*2000*01#|
|LE 1.50||30 MB||3 hours||*2000*03#|
|LE 2.50||60 MB||6 hours||*2000*06#|
|LE 2||50 MB||7 days||*2000*72#|
|LE 3||100 MB||*2000*73#|
|LE 7||350 MB||*2000*77#|
|LE 5||150 MB||28 days||*2000*5#|
|LE 10||500 MB||*2000*10#|
|LE 20||1.1 GB||*2000*20#|
|LE 30||1.8 GB||*2000*30#|
|LE 40||2.5 GB||*2000*40#|
|LE 60||4 GB||*2000*60#|
|LE 80||6 GB||*2000*80#|
|LE 100||8 GB||*2000*100#|
|LE 150||12 GB||*2000*150#|
|LE 250||20 GB||*2000*250#|
|LE 400||40 GB||*2000*400#|
Activation is online or by calling *2000#. After consuming the bundle quota, your internet access will be blocked. To add more data on monthly bunfles, you can choose between the different add-ons or paying the default rate.
- LE 5: 150 MB, activation: *2000*105#
- LE 20: 500 MB, activation: *2000*1020#
- LE 10: no cut-off, but throttled to 32 kbps
For activation dial *2000# or logon your account.
Vodafone has started its Holiday Line directed at tourists visiting the country. It's sold at the airport and in every Vodafone shop in Egypt. Only foreign visitors can buy this plan and the SIM is working as long as the Visa is valid. Two starters are offered:
- 8 GB, 200 local mins, 20 international mins: LE 200
- 30 GB, 200 local mins, 30 international mins: LE 500
Validity of both packs is for 30 days and packages can be extended by regular packs (see above). Tethering is allowed. Although it is sold as 4G, you never get 4G coverage, not even in the centre of Cairo, mostly is 3G/H+.
- APN: internet.vodafone.net
- Password and Username: internet
- Vodafone Egypt website in English: http://www.vodafone.com.eg/vodafoneportalWeb/en/myWorld_mainPage
- Ana Vodafone is a good app with full English language support. Apple or Android with no geo-block. Most, if not all, your account status, balance and options are available via the app. https://web.vodafone.com.eg/en/ana-vodafone
Orange (formerly: Mobinil)
Orange used to be the biggest mobile provider in Egypt back in the days when it was still called Mobinil. In 2016 they were rebranded to the Orange label. They compete with Vodafone and Etisalat and are at no.2 position with 33% of customers They offer a good coverage in the country and 4G/LTE has started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.
Their prepaid card is sold in their stores (Store locator) for up to EGP 30. If you don't top-up within a month, your SIM will be terminated and you lose your credit. They have different prepaid lines: "per second" is without a base rate, 'Netwawy' has 50 MB per day included for EGP 1.50 or 400 MB per week for EGP 7. A Stamp Tax of LE 0.51 per month applies to every plan.
Data feature packs
All customers are on “Pay as you consume” by default. You will be granted 12 MB for LE 1.5/ day; after which you will be charged around LE 0.50-0.25 per MB depending on plan. These Packages are available:
|Online 1||24 hrs||25 MB||LE 1|
|Online 7.5||30 days||200 MB||LE 7.50|
|Online 15||600 MB||LE 15|
|Online 30||1.5 GB||LE 30|
|Online 45||2.5 GB||LE 45|
|Online 60||3.5 GB||LE 60|
|Onlime 75||5 GB||LE 75|
|Online 100||8 GB||LE 100|
|Online 150||12 GB||LE 150|
|Online 250||20 GB||LE 250|
|Online 400||40 GB||LE 400|
|Online 150||1 year||500 MB/mo.||LE 150|
You can activate through your Orange account online or from your phone: dial #100#, select "Internet & BlackBerry", select "Internet Packages", select "subscribe", select the Internet package that suits you best . You will receive a notification SMS to confirm your subscription to your preferred package. Or by calling 110 customer service. All packages automatically renew.
After finishing the inclusive data of your package, you can choose what happens next:
- renew your package with the same price and same data volume
- purchase a package extension (each add-ons only available for original pack sizes equal or above).
- continue on the pay as you consume charging EGP 0.25-0.50/MB .
You can unsubscribe from any online package by following the same subscription steps, choose "unsubscribe" instead of "subscribe". You can change between different packages at any time by unsubscribing from the current package and subscribing to the new preferred package and the new package will be added instantly. Orange WiFi is available at these locations: list.
For an extra EGP 10 you can transform a current internet package to "unlimited". After you finish your package inclusive volume, you will still get data at a reduced speed of 64 kbps without extra cost. Activation is made online.
Social Media packages
For social media users Orange has introduced special social media focussed packages called GO:
|50 MB||100 MB||24 hours||LE 2|
|250 MB||500 MB||30 days||LE 10|
|750 MB||750 MB||LE 20|
|1.25 GB||1 GB||LE 30|
|3 GB||1 GB||LE 50|
|8 GB||2 GB||LE 100|
Social networks include Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. The monthly packages are auto-renewed, the daily is not. Unused data will be carried over to be used in the next month in case the Go package is renewed on time. Overuse fees are LE 1 per 50 MB. To activate dial #100#.
In 2018 Orange started its Holiday Line directed at tourists visiting the country. It's sold at the airport and in every Orange shop in Egypt. Only foreign visitors can buy this plan. Two starters are offered:
- 5 GB, 200 local mins, 20 international mins: LE 200
- 30 GB, 200 local mins, 30 international mins: LE 500
Validity of both packs is for 30 days and packages can be extended by regular packs (see above). Tethering is allowed.
These package do not include include SMS/text (not sure about other packages). One local SMS is 20 pt (piasters, 0.20 LE/EGP) as per customer support, although official website says it's 19 pt. As of August 8, 2021, you can send up to 5 free SMS to local numbers from the Orange's My Account attached to your Orange number.
- APN: mobinilweb
- Website in English: https://www.orange.eg/en/
- My Account in English and support chat in English (the initial password will be sent to you via SMS): https://www.orange.eg/en/myaccount/login
- Dial #136# (not *136#) to get information about your internet packages.
- Call 400 for a voice menu for all prepaid services. Then press #, and after the voice reads a specific option, press its number, not earlier.
- As of August 9, 2021, you can switch from Arabic to English inside the following menu: 5 (other services) followed by 2 (settings) followed by 2 (change language). Remember that you have to enter a digit only after the specific option has been read, which can be confusing if the menu is in Arabic. It may be easier to ask the support chat in English (see above).
Etisalat is the smallest of the three providers with a market share of 22%. It gives good coverage in some places, but has gaps and slow speeds in others. They combine their own hotspots in their products. You can call *233 for the nearest hotspots. Etisalat is said to have the lowest coverage, but are the only provider that publish+es a 2G/3G coverage map. 4G/LTE was launched in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.
Etisalat has a variety of prepaid cards and start-up packages. The starter pack is for LE 20 with LE 10 credit preloaded in their stores (store locator). Their prepaid tariff lines are called Ahlan that come in different varieties. They are sold in their stores (locator) together with recharge cards. A Stamp Tax of LE 0.51 per month applies to every plan.
Data feature packages
The default data rate is at LE 0.50 per MB on all of their prepaid products. These monthly packs for 28 days can be activated:
|Connect 10||350 MB||350 MB||LE 10||*22*10*2#|
|Connect 20||750 MB||750 MB||LE 20||*22*20"2#|
|Connect 35||1.5 GB||1.5 GB||LE 35||*22*35*2#|
|Connect 65||3.25 GB||3.25 GB||LE 65||*22*65*2#|
|Connect 130||10 GB||LE 60||*22*130*3#|
|Connect 200||16 GB||LE 100||*22*200*3#|
|Connect 300||25 GB||LE 300||*22*300*3#|
Social media is all consumption Through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatApp. Overuse is charged with LE 0.15 per MB. To subscribe call *22# for free. All packages auto-renew, if there is enough credit. To unsubscribe type *566#. For overuse you can buy the same package again or an add-on for the same price or surf at the default rate.
For social media they sell a Super Social Unlimited package at LE 15 with 1 GB for Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat & Instagram and 100 MB for other websites. Activation by *566*15#.
Their data-only plan is called Mongez Prepaid and for tablets, routers and modems. The following bundles are available:
|LE 30||1.5 GB||0.5 GB||1 month||131|
|LE 45||2,5 GB||0.5 GB||1 month||753|
|LE 60||3.5 GB||1.5 GB||3 months||132|
|LE 100||8 GB||4 GB||3 months||133|
|LE 150||14 GB||4 GB||3 months||134|
|LE 250||25 GB||7 GB||3 months||137|
|LE 400||45 GB||7 GB||3 months||754|
Activation is by *130# or texting '1' to the number in the table. WiFi volume applies only to Etisalat hotspots. Dial *223# to find the nearest hotspot. Bundles will renew automatically in case of sufficient balance. To inquire about your usage and renewal date send an empty SMS to 555 or dial *130# for free. In case of full bundle consumption; you will have the choice to renew your bundle, purchase an extra add-on or be charged per LE 0.25 per MB.
Etisalat has also released a SIM aimed at visiting tourists called Hi Traveler! It's only sold to foreigners and valid for a max. of 90 days. Their plans are for 30 days and can be renewed up to three times:
- Traveler 175: 5 GB, 500 local mins, 10 internatl. mins, 500 local SMS- LE 175
- Traveler 350: 10 GB, 1500 local mins, 25 internatl. mins, 1000 local SMS - LE 350
- Traveler 525: 20 GB, 3500 local mins, 50 internatl. mins, 2000 local SMS - LE 525
- APN: etisalat
- Website in English: http://www.etisalat.eg
WE by Telecom Egypt
Telecom Egypt is the state-owned landline monopolist with more than 6 million customers. In 2016 it acquired a LTE license and the network has been started in autumn 2017. They provide 4G/LTE at first "experiminentally" on Bands 1 and 8 (900, 2100 MHz). 2G and 3G coverage is done through roaming agreements with Orange and Etisalat. The country’s long-awaited 4th mobile network is branded as WE.
The prepaid cards for the 4th mobile network have been available for distribution since 2017. The high-speed 4G service is set to be officially activated for all 4 mobile services by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority within weeks.
Data feature packages
|50 MB||1 days||LE 1||*999*01#|
|1 GB||30 days||LE 10||*999*10#|
|2.5 GB||30 days||LE 20||*999*20#|
|6 GB||30 days||LE 40||*999*40#|
|18 GB||30 days||LE 100||*999*100#|
|40 GB||30 days||LE 200||*999*200#|
Customers will also be able to buy bundles with interchangeable domestic minutes, SMS and MB. LE 20 buys 1,600 units and LE 40 4,000 units while one unit is either one minute, SMS or MB.
- APN: internet.te.eg
- Website: http://www.te.eg/wps/portal/te/Personal
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/telecomgypt015