Back in 2001 and 2003 I had the opportunity to go to Algiers for a series of Audits of a new mobile operator there. One of the most interesting experiences in my professional life so far, combining the opportunity to acquire a fully transverse view of a mobile operation and the confrontation to a culture and way of life that seem similar to ours at first but in many ways are very different.
One of the aspects that was the most interesting to me and that I have since witnessed in other emerging markets is the terrible condition of the wireline access network.If memory serves me correctly, back then there were in Algeria about two million copper lines (a not insignificant proportion of which did not work) for over five million households and a population exceeding 30 million.
In countries such as Algeria, there's a real question about the viability of wireline services, let alone FTTH. Undoubtedly, the business sector needs wireline connectivity to remain inserted in the world economy, but that alone does not justify the roll-out of a fiber infrastructure to the population.
And yet, Algerie Telecom has just announced a pilot FTTH roll-out to 1000 homes in Aïn-Benian (see French language link Le "triple-play" gagne l'Algérie). Interestingly enough, the invoked reason is not better services or more revenue, nor even macro-economic pressures but rather to "eliminate the phenomenon of chaotic proliferation of satellite antennas on buildings."
It should be said that Algeria Telecom is publicly owned and by a country that still has huge revenues from oil and gas exports, so a wider roll-out of FTTH could very well be envisaged in Algeria, but I must admit that I am still somewhat doubtful. Wait and see, I guess…