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Last Arab telecoms monopoly falls

Britain's Vodafone beats rivals including Etisalat and Zain to win Qatar's second mobile phone licence.

Britain's Vodafone Group led a group that beat rivals including AT&T to win Qatar's second mobile phone licence and end the last Arab telecom monopoly.

Qatar's telecom regulator declined to say how much Vodafone's group, which includes the Qatar Foundation, paid for the licence to operate in the Opec oil producer with the world's third largest natural gas reserves.

The four losing bids were from groups including AT&T, Verizon Communications, Etisalat and Zain of Kuwait, the regulator said.

Qatar's Qtel runs the only mobile and fixed-line networks in Qatar, which also plans to sell a another fixed-line licence.

Qatar, with a population of 840,000, has more mobile phones than people. The population should rise to 1.34 million by 2015 driving mobile phone use, Qatar's Supreme Council of Information & Communication Technology said in April.

The country's economy is set to grow at 8.6% this year, the fastest pace in the world's top oil-exporting region, according to a Reuters poll.

Qtel makes 76% of its profit in Qatar, where average revenues per user are around $85 per month, the company's chief executive said last week.

The Supreme Council of Information & Communications Technology said in September seven companies bid for the mobile phone licence from an initial 12 short-listed firms. (Reuters)