Etisalat undecided on new telecoms licence in India

28 February 2012

Regional operator keen to tap into Libyan market instead after India withdrawal

Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) has not yet decided whether it will pursue a telecoms licence in India once auctions begin in four months.

The telecoms operator has pulled out of the country and suspended its operations after the Supreme Court of India cancelled 122 telecoms licences in a corruption probe.

Etisalat is now suing its partners in its Indian venture, Emirates DB (EDB), formerly known as Swan Telecom, for fraud and misrepresentation.

“It is still too early to decide [whether to bid]. We have just begun the court proceedings so we will see what happens,” says a company spokesperson.

“We lost a lot of money. We had just had our soft launch and managed to get 1.8 million subscribers. We were preparing for the official launch and then this [the Supreme Court ruling] happened,” says the spokesperson.

The operator is, however, keen to pursue a presence in Libya.

“We are waiting for a response from the Libyan authorities. We have spoken to the new [interim] government and have registered our interest in Libya,” says Mohammed Omran, chairmain of Etisalat. “We are available in any way.”

Prior to the revolution that toppled the country’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Etisalat had placed a bid and secured the third mobile licence in the country in 2009.

As yet, it is unclear whether Etisalat will be able to begin proceedings and build its network or whether there will be a new licensing auction.

With the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya is a market that has potential for growth across all sectors. There are currently two mobile operators in the country, Libyana and Madar. Both are government-owned operators. There have been talks of making the two operators public, but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, especially as the Libyan Stock Exchange remains shut.  

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