JEDDAH,(Reuters) – State-run Saudi Telecom (STC) has submitted an offer for a mobile licence in Syria, the company said on Saturday, one of the few countries in the region with low mobile penetration and promising growth chances.
STC is one of five firms to qualify for the Syria licence auction, along with Qatar Telecom, Turkcell, France Telecom, and the UAE’s Etisalat, although the latter two have dropped plans to bid.
“(STC) announces that it submitted on Wednesday, March 30, its technical and operational offer… The offers that are qualified by Syria’s (telecommunication) ministry will enter the final (financial) phase of the auction on April 27,” the company said in a statement on the bourse website.
Syria, with a mobile penetration of about 30 percent in 2007, started a tender in September to sell the third mobile operator licence.
The two current cellphone operators in Syria are South Africa’s MTN and Syriatel, which is mostly owned by Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf.
STC faces increased competition from Etihad Etisalat (Mobily)and Zain Saudi in its home market, the biggest Arab economy.
An industry source told Reuters in October that STC could be among the strongest contenders, especially after ties between the Damascus government and Riyadh improved last year.
France Telecom has said it decided not to submit a bid for Syria’s third mobile phone licence given the terms, with the price the main concern, given that the radio wave frequencies on offer were of lower quality and would have required a denser, and therefore more expensive, network build-out.