4. Telecommunications and access to Internet

Telecommunications are run by a state monopoly called "Tunisie Telecom" and the Tunisian government places a high priority on the provision reliable phone services. The telecommunication infrastructure is well developed and includes a number of advanced services varying from normal phone lines, to leased analog lines, mobile phones and X25, numeric and fibre optic leased lines. However, although investments were multiplied by 3 during the last seven years, Tunisie Telecom has some difficulties to cope with the backlog of connection requests and the continued strong growth in demand for new phone connections.

Table 6 :Demand for telephone connections (thousands of requests)
   1991  1992  1993
 New demands  76.7  85.8  92.5
 New connections  45.5  54.7  63.4
 Waiting  141.1  143.4  125.0

Since the early nineties Tunisia has developed a National Packet Switched Network X25 called TUNIPAC. This network is being expanded and its capacity should reach 3500 lines with speed lines varying from 64 kb/s to 2 Mb/s. However, users remain reluctant from using it due to the high cost of data transfer.

Quite recently, at the end of 1996, due to high demand by the business community, a new public body called "Agence Tunisienne Internet " has been set up, aside to Tunisie Telecom, in order to provide Internet services.

Research centres and universities are connected through the Tunisian Academic and Research Network the "Réseau National de la Recherche et de la Technologie (RNRT)" and will be given special privileges such as low communication rates. The RNRT was initiated in 1992 by the SERST and is managed by the Institut Régional des Sciences Informatiques et des Télécommunications (IRSIT).

IRSIT has had a pioneering role in this area especially in developing international connectivity. The first e-mail connection was set up in 1987 using a phone line to Montpellier, France on the BITNET network. In 1990, a permanent connection was established between IRSIT and INRIA in France through the X25 network. Today Tunisia is connected to the rest of the world via a 256 Kb/s line. The traffic has tremendously increased from 50 Mb/month in 1991 to 1.3 GByte/month at the beginning of 1995 and is currently increasing at the rate of about 100% every six months. This traffic is mainly generated by applications such as e-mail, FTP and Gopher.