The Tunisian ministry of communications has issued an international tender to award the country’s second GSM license during the first half of 2001. Tunisia's government has pledged to introduce cellular competition as part of the country's commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO). At present, the country’s sole mobile phone service license is held by the state telecom monopoly, Tunisie Telecom.
According to the terms of the tender, companies or consortiums of recognized and experienced GSM (global system for mobile communications) telephony network operators are invited to submit proposals. Such companies must have owned at least 51 percent of the share capital of a mobile telephony company serving at least 500,000 subscribers, for a period of more than two years, as of December 31, 2000.
Bidders must have a net worth of at least $400 million at the end of its most recent financial year, providing the bidder is a single company. If the bidder is a consortium of companies, its leader must have a net worth equal to least $400 million, or the leader’s mother-company must be capitalized at least two billion dollars as of December 31, 2000.
So far It has been made known that the Tunisia-based Besrour Intercom company has shown interest in the upcoming GSM license tender, seeking to form a partnership with an established US telecom firm. Bell Canada and Telediffusion de France hold a 49 percent stake in Besrour.
Announcing the opening of the tender for Tunisia’s first private mobile telephone operator, Economic Development Minister Abdellatif Saddam said a foreign commercial bank is to advise the government on the licensing procedure. Although he declined to name the bank, it is known that the Société de Banque Francaise et Internationale (SBFI), has been chosen on December 15 to advise and assist the administration, heading a team of consultants including members from Arthur Andersen, White & Case, IM Bank, Kallel & Associates and Alexander Cyrus & Co.
The Tunisian telecommunications market has a strong potential, considering the country's political and economic stability and relative high per-capita income. However, there still is an urgent need to improve infrastructure.
Tunisie Telecom, who launched cellular services in 1996, currently has a subscriber capacity of about 50,000. A $74-million expansion to enable the servicing of over 300,000 subscribers is to be completed by the end of 2001. It is hoped that the newcomer’s GSM network will serve 250,000 subscribers, bringing Tunisia’s total GSM subscribers for both networks up to 400,000.
The past decade has seen Tunisia’s telecom density figure (lines per 100 inhabitants) nearly double with the country’s fixed lines network undergoing complete digitalization in 1999. It is now estimated the by 2002 the country’s will have reached 14 percent tele-density, from the current 9.5 — with nearly one million lines serving 9.6 million Tunisians. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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