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Qatar paves way for second fixed-line operator

Second fixed-line licence could be awarded as early as April 2008, according to ictQatar

Qatar's telecom regulator, ictQatar, could award a licence for a second fixed-line operator as early as April 2008, in a move that will end the monopoly enjoyed by incumbent fixed-line operator, Qtel.

IctQatar announced that it would be opening the country's fixed-line sector up to competition in mid-2007, when it called for expressions of interest from fixed-line operators internationally.

Five organisations have already announced they will be bidding, including: Argos Consortium, which includes Verizon of the USA; Bahrain's Batelco; the UAE's Etisalat; Eutelia SpA of Italy, and QIPCO Consortium which includes PCCW-HKT of Hong Kong. Companies have until February 7 to register potential bids.

The licence award will have a fixed fee of QAR10 million ($2.74 million), and the winning licensee will have access to developments in Qatar such as the Pearl and Losail, as well as to existing residential and business areas. The license will also include authorisation to operate an international gateway.

"Our goal is to bring to the residents and businesses of Qatar a state-of-the-art network combining the latest technologies and services," said Dr Hessa Al Jaber, secretary general of ictQatar.

"We believe this is a very attractive market, with an expanding population, multiple new residential and business developments and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world."

The move follows Qatar's recent decision to award a second mobile licence to a consortium led by UK mobile operator Vodafone.