Batelco from Bahrain, Etisalat of the UAE, Italy’s Eutelia, PCCW from Hong Kong and Verizon, the US telecoms giant, have all formally expressed an interest in bidding for the licence that will end Qtel’s monopoly of fixed-line communications in Qatar.

Other telecoms companies have until 7 February 2008 to register with ictQatar. The regulator expects to name the winner in early April.

Companies will compete on the technical merits of their bids, such as the quality of their networks and the range of services that they plan to offer. The winner will have to pay a licence fee of QR10m ($2.7m).

The regulator awarded a second mobile phone licence to Vodafone, the UK telecoms firm, on 10 December.