Jordan’s Telecoms Regulatory Commission awarded Friendi Mobile a licence to provide mobile phone services using the infrastructure of an existing operator in mid-March.

It has also been given a preliminary licence from the Telecoms Regulatory Authority in Oman. The decisions could herald a wave of liberalisation in the region’s telecoms markets, if regulators in other countries follow. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are both considering opening up their markets to virtual operators, with Manama likely to approve them later this year (MEED 21:3:08).

In other regions, particularly Europe and the US, liberalisation has been followed by dozens of consumer brands launching virtual networks.

Friendi has yet to reach a deal with one of Jordan’s mobile operators. There are four in the country: Orange; Umniah, a subsidiary of Bahrain’s Batelco; Xpress; and Zain, the local arm of the Kuwaiti firm of the same name.

“We are still in negotiations with the operators,” says Mikkel Vinter, chief executive officer at Friendi. “I cannot give an exact [launch] date right now, but we are looking at a summer timeframe.”

Friendi paid a fee of JD120,000 ($170,000) for its licence.

It also received a preliminary licence for a mobile virtual network in Oman in the middle of March, and has yet to reach a deal with either of Oman’s two operators, Oman Mobile and Nawras.