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Wed 26 Mar 2003 04:00 AM

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Bahrain issues GSM shortlist

The bids have been evaluated and the shortlist of candidates for Bahrain's second GSM license has been revealed.

Kalaam, MTC Vodafone and Wataniya Bahrain have been named as the shortlisted candidates for Bahrain’s second GSM license.The final choice of who receives the license is expected to be announced on April 16 and the license issued on April 22.Wataniya and MTC Vodafone are both listed Kuwaiti companies and have been seeking to expand outside of their domestic markets. Both are making their bids as part of consortiums that include Bahraini companies and businessmen. Less is known about Kalaam, although it is believed to involve an international partner.Competition for the license has been intense, with ten companies originally entering bids. Arab Advisors Group, a technology analysis firm, has said that the terms and provisions of the second license, plus remaining growth potential in Bahrain, make it an attractive proposition. “It is very evident that the government of Bahrain is very keen on introducing competition to its communications market,” said Jawad Abbassi, president of Arab Advisors. “The new mobile operator in Bahrain will have incentives and privileges unseen before in other Arab markets.”Amongst those incentives are an annual licence fee of 1% of revenues; the right to use Batelco’s GSM infrastructure until its own network has been completed; and the right, but not the obligation, to offer 3G services. The upfront license fee is reported to be only US $265,000.MTC Vodafone made headlines in January when it completed a $424 million acquisition of Fastlink, Jordan’s number one mobile operator. Wataniya made its first foray overseas last October when it paid $113.5 million for a 50% stake in Tunisiana, which began service on December 27, 2002.

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