CAIRO, Dec 10 - Egypt's telecom regulator has delayed by two months the deadline for bids for two restricted licences to supply cable, voice and Internet services, its head said on Thursday.
The head of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Amr Badawi, also told Reuters it was not currently considering reviving a plan to offer a second fixed-line licence that would break the monopoly of Telecom Egypt (ETEL.CA).
Bids for the cable, telecom and Internet licences to serve residential compounds will now be due by March 15, Badawi said.
Most of the bidders requested it, he said, adding that 18 firms had bought the bid documents. They requested more time to form consortiums and prepare bids.
Companies that have confirmed their interest include existing operators Mobinil (EMOB.CA) and Vodafone (VOD.L), as well as regional operator Orascom Telecom (ORTE.CA).
Badawi said bidders had also requested an extension to the 5,000 unit maximum per compound, but that the NTRA board was still to rule on this issue, likely later in December.
The regulator said a year ago it had decided to postpone an already-delayed auction for a second fixed-line licence for a year, citing global market woes. Badawi said the regulator said options were still open but had no plans to revive the plan now.
It's not on the table right now, Badawi said. We'll see how these licences develop and keep our options open later.
Analysts say the cable, telecom and internet licences are limited both in geographical scope and the range of services winning bidders will provide, leaving Telecom Egypt's fixed-line monopoly largely intact. [ID:nL4272088]
The licences offered by the NTRA are not fully-fledged licences and include only the value-added services, but not voice services, investment bank Beltone wrote in a note to clients.
Badawi said the companies would be able to lay infrastructure within the compounds only.
If you want to have a fixed voice service outside the compound you have to go through Telecom Egypt. Within the compound they (the winning bidders) will be providing the fixed voice service, he said.
The government is not charging an upfront payment for the two licences, which it expects will attract $1 billion of investment over five years, but will take 8 percent of revenue. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by David Holmes)