The mobile phone giant won the auction in partnership with the Qatar Foundation, a charitable body, last December, but the size of its winning bid has not been known until now (MEED 10:12:07).

Etisalat, the UAE operator, which was the only other bidder for the licence, has revealed that its own bid was for more than $1bn but it was outbid by the Vodafone consortium.

“We have made a very high amount. More than $1bn,” says Mohammad Hassan Omran, chairman of Etisalat.

Vodafone declined to confirm the size of its consortium’s winning bid. A company spokesman says its share of the cost of the licence will be less than $1bn.

“There were two partners in the bid,” he says. “If you put it to us that Vodafone will pay more than $1bn for the licence by itself, that is wrong.”

Vodafone will have management control of the operator, but will own a minority stake.

However, Vodafone has still to be officially awarded the licence, with the Economy & Commerce Ministry yet to give the company formal approval (MEED 25:4:08).

If this happens soon, the company could start offering services before the end of 2008.

Egypt’s IT Industry Development Agency says Vodafone’s Egyptian subsidiary has informed it that a call centre for the Qatari operation will open in Cairo in September or October this year.