Qatar’s telecoms regulator ictQATAR yesterday launched an auction for the country’s second fixed line network operating licence. ictQATAR published details of the application process on its website, with the licence expected to be awarded in April 2008. Five expressions of interest have already been received from the following parties: Argos Consortium (including US-based Verizon Communications), Bahrain Telecoms Company (Batelco), the UAE’s Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat), Italian alternative telco Eutelia and QIPCO Consortium (including PCCW-HKT of Hong Kong). The concession will be awarded through a ‘beauty contest’ procedure, involving comparative evaluation of the potential operators, with ictQATAR assessing the technical merits of the bids based on the quality of the network and the range of services proposed by applicants. The regulator also published the terms of the licence together with responses to an earlier consultation paper on the draft permit. The licence will cost a fixed fee of QAR10 million (USD2.75 million), and will allow facilities-based domestic and international services, including authorisation to operate an international gateway. Additional parties may still register their interest until 7 February 2008.
Commenting on the launch of the auction, Dr Hessa Al Jaber, Secretary General of ictQATAR, said ‘Our goal is to bring to the residents and businesses of Qatar a state of the art network combining the latest technologies and services. We believe this is a very attractive market – with an expanding population, multiple new residential and business developments and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.’ Last week the Vodafone & Qatar Foundation Consortium won Qatar’s second mobile network operating licence. Dr Hessa Al Jaber said that ‘Competition for this mobile licence from the international community was great and we expect a vigorous competition for the fixed licence as well.’ Both fixed and mobile licensees will compete with incumbent provider Qatar Telecom (Qtel).