Yemen short-lists six for GSM award

Amongst the short-listed bidders are believed to be bids from the UAE’s Etisalat, China Telecom and recently listed Oman Telecom.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  August 7, 2005

Six bidders are reported to have qualified for the award of Yemen’s third GSM licence. Amongst the short-listed bidders are believed to be bids from the UAE’s Etisalat, China Telecom and recently listed Oman Telecom. Bidders are required to have at least three years experience in operating GSM networks. Incumbent Yemeni mobile operators SabaFon and Spacetel have argued against the licensing of a third GSM operator despite Yemen’s low mobile penetration rate. Yemen currently has three digital mobile networks. SabaFon and Spacetel, both launched in 2001, and provide GSM900 voice and data services. Spacetel was founded by Investcom of Lebanon, which continues to manage the operation. SabaFon’s ownership consists of five partners: The Al-Ahmar Group; Hayel Saeed Anam; Iran Foreign Investment Company; Consolidated Contractors International Company and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the private sector. The state-owned Yemen Mobile is the first fully mobile CDMA network in the Middle East and has around 35,000 subscribers. SabaFon is the market leader with just under 610,000 active subscribers of which 87% are prepaid, while Spacetel has around 550,000 active users (750,000 registered), 85% of whom are prepaid. Both GSM operators initially concentrated on the highest income elite in Yemen, but have begun to target middle-income earners. With coverage to rural areas being increased, more marketing spend is set to go into acquiring these users. Mobile penetration stood at just 5.8% at the end of 2004.

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