The Telecommunications Authority of the Maldives has announced plans to issue a second GSM licence, thus breaking the monopoly held by DhiMobile, the cellular arm of national PTO Dhivehi Raajjayge Gulhun (Dhiraagu). The 15-year concession will be sold for USD1 million, and although it will be offered on a technology-neutral basis, applicants must have at least three years experience of operating a mobile network serving at least 100,000 customers, and of utilising internationally approved digital technologies – either directly or through one of their significant shareholders or subsidiaries. The new operator must also pay 5% of its future annual turnover to the regulator. The deadline for bids to be submitted is 14 October 2004.
Dhiraagu, a joint venture between the Government of the Maldives (55%) and Cable and Wireless of the UK (45%), launched its GSM service in October 1999, since when mobile subscriptions have surpassed the number of fixed lines in service. Originally available only in the Male’ area of the country, coverage has since been extended to all 88 tourist resorts and more than 85 inhabited islands covering over 73% of the population. At the end of April 2004 DhiMobile had 76,913 subscribers, up from 66,466 at the end of 2003, of which more than 81% were pre-paid, giving the Maldives a mobile penetration rate of 22.7%. At the same date Dhiraagu’s fixed line network served 30,557 customers, equating to a fixed line teledensity of just 9%.