It is understood that the project’s radio package may be offered exclusively to Finland’s Nokia, Germany’s Siemensand Sweden’s Ericsson, the only companies authorised to bid for projects in the mobile phone sector in the past. The switching equipment is expected to be bid in an open tender. The UK’s Aircom Internationalis the consultant on the TCI-financed project.

TCI is also handling a separate project to install a further 2 million mobile phone lines on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. Nine local consortia are prequalified to submit proposals by 15 February for the project, which will offer local customers pre-paid services for the first time in the Islamic republic.

According to the tender guidelines, only local firms with at least 51 per cent private ownership are eligible to participate. The successful bidder will be required to install a complete 2 million-line network, covering 3,000 base stations countrywide, and to provide all related services.