Iran has awarded its third mobile operator licence to UAE-based telecommunications company Etisalat, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing an unnamed source at the telecommunications ministry. Among other consortia that bid for the licence were Omantel and a Malaysian firm, the ILNA news agency reported, without giving further details. Kamran Majdmanesh, MD of Iran's Telecommunications consortium, said the Etisalat consortium was composed of Emirates Telecoms and Iranian Tamin Telecom. State radio said the non-Iranian firm would have a 49 percent stake in the project. The bid gap between the first bidder and the second was more than 5 percent, Majdmanesh told ILNA. There are currently two mobile service providers in Iran - state-controlled Iran Telecommunication Company (ITC) and MTN. Iran has over 28 million mobile phone users. Fars said the result of the tender needed to be approved by Iran's minister of telecommunications. Jamil al-Jarwan, chief executive of Etisalat International Investments, told Reuters the company will pay USD 300 million for the licence and spend at least USD 1 billion rolling out a network. The consortium intends to begin operations within nine months, possibly earlier. The group will also pay 23.6 percent of revenues to the government under the 15-year licence deal. Etisalat hopes to get at least 1 million subscribers in the first year of operations, Jarwan said.
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