United Arab Emirates (UAE) based operator Etisalat is on the verge of being awarded Saudi Arabia’s coveted second GSM licence after submitting the highest tender amongst the six companies to have qualified for the auction. The Etisalat consortium bid SAR12.21 billion (USD3.25 billion) for the 20-year concession, ahead of the group lead by South Africa’s MTN which offered SAR11.05 billion (USD2.94 billion), Egypt’s Orascom (USD2.61 billion), MTC Group of Kuwait (USD2.4 billion) and the Samawat Consortium, which includes Telecom Italia Mobile and tabled a bid of USD2.32 billion. The lowest offer, USD1.78 billion, was submitted by the consortium headed by Telefónica Moviles and backed by billionaire Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz. Etisalat’s bid will now be scrutinised by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), which will look at the winning bidder’s proposals for the introduction of third-generation mobile services in Saudi Arabia. If the proposal is accepted, the CITC will ask the cabinet to issue the Etisalat consortium with the coveted concession. Etislalat’s Saudi partners are the General Organisation for Social Insurance, the Abdul Aziz Al-Sughayyer Group, Riyadh Cables Company, Al-Rana Investment Company and two commercial groups, Al-Jomaih and Bin Zager.