AT held final discussions in mid-January with the shortlisted bidders, Siemensof Germany, China’s Huawei Technologiesand the US’ Motorola. The candidates have been whittled down from six potential suppliers, which first submitted offers in response to an original tender for 500,000 lines issued by the Post & Telecommunications Ministry in autumn 2001. The other bidders were France’s Alcatel, Sweden’s Ericssonand China’s Zhongxing Technologies (ZTE – MEED 11:1:02).

The contract was won by Siemens, but the tender was subsequently cancelled by the local public watchdog CNMP. A second revised tender for 700,000 subscriber lines was issued by AT last September, attracting bids from the same six companies. The lines will provide mobile coverage to 12 of Algeria’s 48 wilyas (administrative regions) and are expected to take five months to install.

Industry sources say AT may decide to split the contract between two suppliers, awarding one the core network and another the radio network.

Despite having the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in North Africa, Algeria has the region’s lowest mobile phone penetration rate, with only 250,000 subscribers among a population of 31 million. Algeria plans to auction a second private licence at the end of the year. Tender documents for the sale are being prepared and are expected to be issued in the summer. However, industry analysts say it is extremely unlikely that Algeria will be able to secure a licence fee anywhere near as high as the $737 million paid by Egypt’s Orascom TelecomAlgeriein July 2001 (MEED 27:7:01).