Macedonians could enjoy lower mobile prices and better quality services by July 2007, following an announcement from the government that its tender for the country’s third mobile network operator licence is well under way. Four domestic companies have reportedly been joined by nine international firms in expressing interest in the concession. The state announced plans for the tender last month, and bids are being taken until 12 January 2007, with the successful bidder expected to launch by July.
The terms and conditions for the licence require the winner to pay a one-off upfront payment of at least EUR5 million for rights to the frequency spectrum, although the auction will be determined on price. Participants must submit their compliance with this term along with a bank guarantee bond covering the amount they plan to pay. Those wishing to bid must also have an existing subscriber base of two million users and annual profits of more than EUR300 million in 2004-05. The ten-year licence (renewable for a further ten years), also requires that the winner start operating within six months. Its network must cover 30% of the country within year one, rising to 50% in the second year and 90% by the fourth.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the Macedonian mobile market is dominated by T-Mobile Macedonia (formerly MobiMak), the wireless arm of former national monopoly Makedonski Telekomunikacii, which launched its GSM-900 service in October 1996 and enjoyed a free rein until the arrival of OTE-backed Cosmofon in June 2003. At the end of June 2006 the pair had amassed 1.323 million users between them, a cellular penetration rate of 65.2%, of which T-Mobile Macedonia claimed the lion’s share with 891,000.