Saudi Arabia will award three fixed line network operating licences to consortia led by Bahrain’s Batelco, Hong Kong’s PCCW and US-based Verizon Communications next month, according to Arab News, citing Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Muhammad Jameel Mulla. The licensing will end the monopoly of state-run Saudi Telecom Company. The Batelco-Atheeb consortium plans to roll out broadband, data and voice services using WiMAX technology. Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Ahmed, chairman of Atheeb Telecom, said his company would offer 25% of company shares to the public and 10% to the General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI) and the Pension Fund. Batelco CEO Peter Kaliaropoulos said his company would hold a 15% stake in the new operator, to be set up by the consortium with a capital of USD266.7 million. One of the other two pre-qualified consortia, Al Mutakamilah (including PCCW), has also applied for wireless spectrum. According to Abdul Rahman Al Fehaid, deputy governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), the new companies will start commercial operations a year after receiving their licences. ‘The new fixed line coverage should reach at least three regions in three years and the whole Kingdom in seven years,’ he added. The CITC picked the three from ten consortia, which submitted their applications in March. Bids by Etihad Etisalat, which operates the Kingdom’s second mobile network, South Korea’s KT Corp and China Telecom were among those who failed to qualify. Khaled Ahmed Al Juffali Co. (including WorldCall Telecom of Pakistan), Saudi Telecom Holding Co (including Qatar’s Qtel), Electronet (including Autelia of Italy) and Al Shola were other consortia vying for a much sought-after licence.