According to the prequalification announcement, the bid process will take place in two phases. Phase one will involve the prequalification of individual companies, which will then be asked under phase two to form bidding consortia. A schedule has not yet been set for the release of tender documents, or the bid deadline. However, Information & Communication Technologies Minister Ahmad Sharafat told MEED in early October that bids would be due in the first half of 2004. That would allow for a contract award by the end of next year.

The tender stipulates the successful bidder will enjoy an exclusivity period of just two years, during which it will be the only competitor to state-run TCI. According to Sharafat, the new licence holder will be expected to install around 5 million new GSM lines over a three-year period.

A separate private telecommunications initiative, for prepaid GSM services, is still understood to be facing difficulties, as the consortium that won the contract to develop it is in danger of splitting up. Rafsanjan Industrial Complex, which led the winning group in the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project, is reportedly in dispute with its operator, Europe’s Tele2. The project was awarded in March, but there has still been no selection of an equipment supplier. Finland’s Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson, Germany’s Siemensand France’s Alcatelare competing for the work.