The National Communications & Media Commission (NCMC), the independent telecoms and media regulator, is planning to launch request for proposal (RFP) documents by the end of September for new mobile licences. Under the proposed schedule, bids will be submitted in November, negotiations with preferred bidders will take place in early December and the winners will be announced in mid-December, NCMC chief executive officer Siyamend Othman told a conference in London on 21-22 July.
The gathering was organised mainly to hear the comments of potential bidders and interested parties, but the indications given by NCMC were that the licences are likely to have a duration of 15 years, with an automatic extension of five years if the operator meets the terms of its licence. Other issues under discussion are the terms of interconnection between the successful bidders, the potential period of exclusivity and the number of licences on offer - likely to be three-five. The two-year licences of the existing three foreign operators, consortia led by Egypt's Orascom Telecomand MTCand Wataniya Telecom, both of Kuwait, expire on 22 December. In the first year, each were confined to a specific region - north, central and south - but were allowed to expand nationally during the second year of their licence term. The new licences are likely to be nationwide from the start. The status of the two operators in the Kurdish autonomous region is unclear (see Cover Story).