South Africa’s Ministry of Communications has confirmed that it has received five bids for the 51% stake in the second national operator (SNO) fixed line licensee. According to the local newspaper the Mail & Guardian the five are TeleAccess Investments, WIP Investments Nine (CommuniTel), Two Consortium, DeTeCon International/T-Systems and an unnamed Chinese company. The latter is reported to have submitted a late bid because it was required to undergo clearance for the SARS virus. Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburi claimed the number of bids was a promising start to the tender, the next phase of which will be for the SNO Working Committee to examine the submissions. The committee will compile a shortlist of two or three applicants, which will then be invited to enter negotiations directly with Mrs Matsepe-Casaburi. The preferred bidder will be recommended to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) for consideration.
The process to establish a second national operator began last year, when the first tender to find a strategic partner for the company attracted just two bids – from relatively unknown players Optis Communications and the Goldleaf consortium. Both were subsequently rejected by ICASA as unsuitable. Under the terms of SNO’s licence, national PTO Telkom SA will be required to give access to all of its telecommunications facilities – on a resale basis – for the first two years of its licence, so as to enable national service-based competition before it has rolled out its own infrastructure. The SNO will be required to provide network-based coverage of all metropolitan areas within five years of launch, rising to 80% population coverage after ten years.