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Libya to Offer Third GSM License in Three to Six Months

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Libya will offer a third mobile phone license within three to six months, the country’s communications and information technology minister said.

The government wants to decrease its hold on the telecommunications sector to “get the private sector more involved, whether local or foreign,” Usama Siala said in a telephone interview from the capital, Tripoli. The two licensed operators, Libyana and Al Madar, are fully state-owned.

Talks with the economy ministry and its affiliated investment authority aim to make the license “attractive to the entrant,” Siala said, without elaborating.

The telecommunications sector of the nation sitting on Africa’s largest oil reserves was badly damaged during the 2011 revolution that ousted the late Muammar Qaddafi. Infrastructure has been repaired, Siala said.

About 10 million SIM cards have been sold in Libya, where there are 6 million active subscribers, the minister said. A third operator will bring “world experience and help improve the quality of service to our subscribers,” Siala said.

The third operator may agree to use existing towers or will build new ones if it decides to cover new areas, he said.

In 2009, United Arab Emirates-based Etisalat bid $825 million to obtain the third license. Qaddafi’s government canceled the tender.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Sami in Cairo at msami2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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