Kanartel is planning to invest $200 million in the first two years during its rollout of services. As part of the agreement, the new operator will focus on improving services to rural areas using satellite technology and wireless equipment. The network is scheduled to be operational by the second quarter of 2005.

Two other companies, Egyptian Telecomand Korean consortium Tamara, were shortlisted for the licence. Telecoms regulator National Telecommunications Corporation (NTC) oversaw the process.

The move is Etisalat’s latest venture abroad. The company already owns 9 per cent of Sudan Telecommunications Company (Sudatel)and has stakes in Qatar Telecomand Zanzibar’s Zantel. In August, its Ettihad Etisalatconsortium was awarded the second GSM licence in Saudi Arabia (MEED 10:9:04).