Under the guidelines, the new operator will be free to choose either European GSM technology or the US’ CDMA system. A timeframe for the roll-out of services is also stipulated: within two years of an award the new network must cover Amman and the Zarqa, Balqa and Madaba governorates; one year later, services should be on offer in the northern and southern governorates; and within four years of the licence award, coverage must be extended to the highways connecting the central, northern and southern regions.

The existing GSM networks are operated by fixed-line operator Jordan Telecom, through its subsidiary MobilCom, and Jordan Mobile Telephone Services (Fastlink), which is 96.5 per cent owned by Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) of Kuwait.

Both will be obliged to allow the new operator to roam on their networks to enable the provision of nationwide services as quickly as possible. A consultation has been launched on the terms of roaming and infrastructure sharing. The licensing guidelines do not provide for any period of exclusivity for the new operator.

The auctioning of a third mobile licence is part of a wider process of telecoms liberalisation. The TRC plans to offer a licence to end Jordan Telecom’s monopoly on international services in 2004.