Algerian telecoms minister Moussa Benhamadi has confirmed that the tender specifications for the country’s long-awaited 3G spectrum auction will be made available by mid-September, putting an end to years of procrastination. Benhamadi added that the tender itself would be likely held in early 2012, and be open to the country’s three mobile operators – Orascom Telecom Algeria (Djezzy), Algerie Telecom Mobile (Mobilis) and Wataniya Telecom Algeria (Nedjma) – although the heavily rumoured involvement of a fourth operator remains shrouded in mystery. Local press reports have indicated that the licences will be priced at DZD3 billion (USD41 million) apiece. Nedjma is the first cellco to declare its interest in the spectrum auction, with CEO Joseph Ged asserting that the company is ‘committed to increasing our investments to fulfil all the licence obligations as would be set and decided by the Algerian government’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the lengthy wait for a formal 3G auction has proven to be a serious bone of contention for Algeria’s wireless operators in recent years. In May 2008 plans for a formal 3G auction were revealed by Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecoms (ARPT), with the regulator issuing an invitation for local and international parties to register their interest by 30 June 2008. Much to the frustration of all involved, the issue has thus far failed to make any tangible progress. Local media reports from July 2010 suggested that the government was considering skipping 3G licensing altogether and awarding Long Term Evolution (LTE) licences instead, but Benhamadi has now confirmed that the ARPT has opted to pursue 3G on economic grounds.