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STC confirms interest in Syria

Saudi Arabian incumbent mulls bid for Syria's third mobile licence

With a mobile penetration rate of less than 50%, Syria holds significant potential for a third licence holder.
With a mobile penetration rate of less than 50%, Syria holds significant potential for a third licence holder.

Saudi Arabia's incumbent telecom operator, STC, is interested in bidding for Syria's third mobile licence, the company said in a statement placed on the Saudi bourse website.

The government of Syria announced in August that it would launch an auction for a third mobile phone licence, with an initial application deadline of November 14.

UAE telco Etisalat confirmed its intention to bid for the licence last month, while Turkish mobile operator, Turkcell, also said it was considering a bid.

Kuwait's Zain Group, which is itself now an acquisition target for Etisalat Group, was the first telco to express an interest in the licence, according to Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper.

Syria's mobile market is currently dominated by Syriatel and MTN Syria, which both operate under build, operate and transfer licences.

With a population of some 20.5 million people, and a mobile penetration rate of about 44%, Syria is widely viewed as one of the Middle East's last untapped mobile markets.