BNP Paribas won the mandate against competition from three other contenders, HSBC Investment Bank, PricewaterhouseCoopersand European Projects Development (EPD)– a consortium including Rothschild Conseil International. The contract award was originally scheduled for last year, but was repeatedly delayed due to administrative problems during the evaluation of the proposals, which were submitted to the PTT on 15 May.

The ministry is also working on plans to establish an independent regulatory authority before the award of the second GSM licence. However, ministry sources say no date has been set for the new body to become operational.

The initiatives are part of a wider plan announced by PTT Minister Ahmad Motamedi in 2001 to increase the number of cellular subscribers to 10 million by 2004 from the existing 1.2 million.