Oman’s telecoms regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), declined to name the other bidders for the licence, which will end state-owned Omantel’s monopoly of fixed-line phone services.

Qtel says it wants the licence so that it can offer fixed-line services, such as high-speed internet access, alongside its existing mobile phone services.

Nasser al-Merri, deputy chairman of Noor Financial Investment, says if it wins, the licence will be operated by its Noortel subsidiary.

The deadline for bids for the new operating licence was 16 September. The TRA has previously said it will evaluate the bids by 22 October and announce the winner by the end of the month (MEED 10:9:08).

Oman’s Finance Ministry is also auctioning off a 25 per cent stake in Omantel, which offers fixed-line and mobile phone services.Kuwaiti telecoms giant Zain is one of eight companies that have prequalified to compete for the stake.

Zain, which only operates mobile phone networks, says it will sell Omantel’s fixed-line network if it wins the auction.

However, the Finance Ministry has yet to confirm whether the eventual winner will be given management control of the company, which is likely to be a key factor in deciding the number and value of bids.