Algerian telecoms regulator Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecoms (ARPT) has officially invited bids for the country’s first batch of 3G mobile licences. Operators have until 30 September 2011 to register their interest, with the winning bids set to be announced on 23 October. The telecoms watchdog has stated that the 3G licences will be valid for commercial use from the first quarter of 2012. Algeria is currently home to three mobile operators – Orascom Telecom Algeria (Djezzy), Algerie Telecom Mobile (Mobilis) and Wataniya Telecom Algeria (Nedjma) – whilst the heavily rumoured involvement of a fourth operator remains shrouded in mystery. Although no financial specifications have been confirmed by ARPT thus far, local press reports have suggested that the licences will be priced at DZD3 billion (USD41 million) apiece.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the lengthy wait for a formal UMTS 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 tender were revealed by 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 last month Algerian telecoms minister Moussa Benhamadi confirmed that the government had opted to pursue 3G on economic grounds.