Dubai: Arab telecom operators and Western companies such as AT&T and Vodafone are competing for a mobile phone licence in Qatar, which will end the last Arab telecom monopoly.
Qatar’s telecom regulator said on Monday it had short-listed 12 companies and consortia to bid for the mobile licence to compete with Qatar Telecom Co. (Qtel) in the Gulf Arab state, holder of the world’s third biggest natural gas reserves.
AT&T, Vodafone and Verizon Communications Inc. are eligible to vie for the licence, along with Arab operators Mobile Telecom Co. of Kuwait and Emirates Telecom Corp., Qatar said.
Bahrain Telecom Co., Egypt’s Orascom Telecom and Jordan Telecom Group are also eligible to bid, as is a consortium including Belgacom and Oman Telecom Co.
Bermuda-incorporated wireless telecommunications operator Digicel, India’s Reliance Communications Ltd and a consortium including Bharti Airtel were also on the shortlist.
Qatar, home to 840,000 people with a mobile penetration rate of more than 100%, said it aimed to award the licence by October.
The country’s economy is set to grow at 8.5% this year, the fastest pace in the world’s top oil-exporting region.
Its population should hit 1.34 million by 2015, driving mobile phone use, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Information & Communication Technology said in April.
It plans to award a fixed-line licence before year-end.
In March, a consortium led by Kuwait’s MTC offered $6.11 billion (Rs25,051 crore) for a third mobile phone licence in Saudi Arabia, far outbidding rivals including South Africa’s MTN.
Bracing for competition at home, Gulf Arab telecom operators have gone on the hunt for foreign assets after riding a wave of economic growth, fuelled by a near tripling of oil prices since 2002.
Qtel in March took over Kuwaiti mobile phone operator National Mobile Telecom Co. for $3.72 billion in the largest-ever Gulf Arab telecom acquisition.