Tripoli - Libya will launch a tender in 2014 for the award
of the country's first private mobile phone licence, Communications Minister
Usama Siala told AFP on Monday.
The country's two publicly-owned providers have more than
eight million subscribers, one of the highest penetration rates in Africa, but
Libya has no private mobile telecoms operators.
"We are going to propose a mobile telephone licence for
the private sector in three to six months," Siala said in an interview
"The ministry got the green light from the cabinet,
from the prime minister and from the telecommunications committee of the
General National Congress," the country's highest political authority,
"We in the ministry would prefer the new operator to be
foreign. But that will depend on a law on encouraging foreign investment that
is being studied in the GNC," he added.
"According to the legal framework that will be adopted,
we will decide if the candidates need to be foreign, Libyan, or in a
joint-venture," he said.
The award of the licence to a private operator is aimed
primarily at "stimulating the telecommunications market in Libya,"
until now monopolised by public companies, Siala said.
Libya's two public mobile telephone operators, Madar and
Libyana, have more than eight million subscribers, of whom some six million
subscribe to Libyana.
This puts Libya's mobile phone penetration, the ratio of
phones to the population, at 120%, one of the highest in Africa
according to official figures.
The two operators contribute between two and three percent
of the country's GDP, the ministry said.
"Until now, we have been competing with ourselves. We
need competition, which can only be beneficial for the market and particularly
for users," the minister said.
During the regime of long-term dictator Muammar Gaddafi,
Libya in 2009 launched a tender for a private licence for mobile and fixed
telephones before cancelling it at the last minute.
Turkish company Turkcell and Emirati telecoms operator
Etisalat competed for the licence at the time.
Siala said that the government had been in contact with international
organisations and experts from the World Bank, from Britain, France and the US
to improve infrastructure in the telecoms sector.
Last week, the publicly-owned Libya Telecom and Technology
company signed a contract with French communications equipment maker
Alcatel-Lucent to install 120 000 ADSL lines in several areas of Libya at a
cost of $3.07m.
The minister also added that a fibre network was being put
in place, particularly in Tripoli, to improve the quality of internet services.