A raft of international mobile operators have been named winners in mobile license auctions in several key Middle Eastern markets this week. According to a Reuters report, which cites the ISNA news agency in Iran, a consortium led by Etisalat has won the third mobile license in Iran (reported elsewhere to be worth up to US$400 million). The UAE-based operator was reportedly part of a consortium that includes Iran's Tamin Telecom. Etisalat has a 49 percent stake in the consortium. Other bidders involved in the auction included Omantel and Malaysia's TM International. The new mobile licensee will compete with the state-owned market-leader, Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI), and MTN Irancell. Russia's three largest mobile operators - MTS, VimpelCom and MegaFon - had all been previously linked with the third Iranian license.
Meanwhile, a separate Reuters report notes that Egypt's Orascom and Kuwaiti-based Zain have both won contracts to operate Lebanon's two mobile networks, MTC Touch and Alfa. According to local press reports, the new contracts are worth US$145 million and effective from 1 February for a period of one year. However, the new contracts are understood to be a 'stop-gap' measure until a long-delayed privatisation of the mobile firms is able to take place. Elsewhere, Saudi Telecom (STC) was named as the only bidder for Bahrain's third mobile license. According to the local regulator, STC was the only company that bid prior to Sunday's deadline, despite a total of four firms previously registering their interest. The regulator did not name the three other companies.
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