The company says it needs more time to evaluate whether entering the Bahraini market would be worthwhile before it expresses interest in the licence.

“We need more time to study the licence and the market,” says Mohamed Hassan Omran, chief executive officer of Etisalat International.

Seven mobile phone operators have already expressed interest in the licence, but Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has yet to name them.

Etisalat’s biggest regional rival, the Kuwaiti company Zain, operates the second mobile phone licence in Bahrain.

Batelco, a Bahraini company, is the largest mobile operator in the country.

The country’s telecoms regulator plans to hold competitions to sell mobile and fixed-line licences in the country during 2008 (MEED 3:3:08).