The Syrian cabinet has approved plans for the licensing of a third mobile operator to compete with incumbent operators SyriaTel and MTN Syria which were awarded 15-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts for the rollout and operation of Syria's first mobile networks back in early 2001. As well as allowing for the entry of a new licensee into the wireless market, the two existing operators will buy out their current BOT agreements and convert to conventional licence agreements. The new licence will be granted after a three-stage process including initial rehabilitation, investment and technical rehabilitation and then finally a financial auction.
CommsUpdate reported UAE telecoms operator Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) first expressed an interest in acquiring Syria’s third wireless licence in April last year, while Kuwait's Zain has also indicated its interest in investing in the country’s mobile market, either through an acquisition of an operator licence, or a stake in an existing operator. In 2009 Zain held talks to buy SyriaTel, but the discussions were suspended for reasons not entirely clear.
Following the news that a licence auction had been approved, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai quoted sources as saying that 'Zain is waiting for Syria's government, which announced the opening of a bid for a third operating telecom ... to issue the terms and conditions required for applying and attaining the license.'