UAE operator Etisalat has said that its Saudi Arabian GSM network will be fully operational by March 2005, by which time it will have coverage of 14 of the country’s main cities. Etisalat won the auction for Saudi Arabia’s coveted second GSM licence in late July after submitting a bid of SAR12.21 billion (USD3.25 billion) for the 20-year concession, in the process beating off competition from South Africa’s MTN, Egypt’s Orascom, MTC Group of Kuwait and the Samawat Consortium, which includes Telecom Italia Mobile. Etisalat has outlined plans to spend AED3.7 billion (USD1 billion) over the next six months to get the service off the ground. The initial outlay is just part of the AED20 billion it plans to invest over the next 25 years. Etisalat hopes to have a network capacity of one million lines at launch and to be offering GSM services nationwide within five years. It has selected Ericsson, Alcatel and Motorola as equipment suppliers.