Industry sources say the PTT Ministry has completed the evaluation of technical and financial proposals, with a contract award to be announced before the start of Ramadan on 6 November to avoid further delays on the project. A contract award was initially expected in June, but was repeatedly postponed due to administrative problems during the evaluation of the proposals, which were submitted to the ministry on 15 May.

Bidders for the advisory mandate are BNP Paribas, HSBC Investment Bank, PricewaterhouseCoopersand European Projects Development (EPD)– a consortium including Rothschild Conseil International. It is not clear whether Mason, a consortium supported by at least one international bank, is still in the race for the mandate. Industry sources say EPD and BNP Paribas are the frontrunners for the contract.

The ministry is also pressing ahead with plans to establish an independent regulatory authority before the award of the second GSM licence. A PTT official told MEED in mid-October that the establishment of the body is to be announced by December. The move will coincide with the PTT Ministry being renamed the Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry.

The initiatives are part of a wider plan announced by PTT Minister Ahmad Motamedi last year to increase the number of mobile phone subscribers to 10 million by 2004.