Omantel bids for 3rd Iran mobile licence

Consortium for exclusive 3G and 2G rights includes unnamed local and international partners.

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By  Firouz Sedarat Published  November 29, 2008

Oman Telecommunications Co. (Omantel) said on Saturday it had qualified for the second stage of bidding for Iran's third mobile phone licence.

A company statement said Omantel was bidding as part of a consortium of international and local partners, which it did not name, to tap a market with a mobile penetration of less than 60 percent, where about half of the population of some 70 million people are under 25 years of age.

"This shows that there are huge opportunities for growth in this sector in the future," Omantel said, adding that that the third operator would have exclusive rights to offer a full range of third-generation (3G) and second-generation (2G) services.

Iran said in August it was inviting companies to bid for the licence. The two existing operators are the state telephone company and Irancell, which is 49 percent owned by MTN Group, sub-Saharan Africa's biggest mobile firm.

Iran's long-running row with the West over its nuclear ambitions has led to UN and Western sanctions, deterring many companies from investing or expanding business in Iran.

Dubai-based Millennium Finance Corporation, which is advising Iran in the bidding, said the process would not be over until the end of the year and that Malaysia's TM International was in the running. Gulf Arab telecom operators have launched overseas operations after losing their monopolies at home.

Nawras, the Omani affiliate of Qatar Telecommunications Co (Qtel), won a licence to set up Oman's second fixed-line network this month, three years after ending Omantel's mobile monopoly. (Reuters)

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