Eight companies have already applied to bid for the new fixed-line licence.

The bidders are AT&T from the US, Batelco from Bahrain, Eutelia from Italy, Jordan Telecom, PCCW from Hong Kong, Verizon from the US, and BT and Vodafone from the UK.

The country’s telecoms regulator, ictQatar, expects to announce the winner of the auction in May and the second fixed-line network should start operating in 2009.

The winner of the licence will also be able to offer high-speed broadband internet services over the air using wireless internet technology known as Wimax.

The regulator decided to bundle the Wimax licence with the second fixed-line licence because it views the country as too small to have a separate Wimax licensee.