2Connect bids for third mobile licence
Manama, January 8, 2009
Bahrain-based 2Connect has teamed up with Saudi Arabia's Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) to bid for the third mobile licence in Bahrain.
But 2Connect founder and managing director Fahad Al Shirawi has admitted they will be burning the midnight oil to meet the Sunday deadline to complete the massive amount of paperwork demanded by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
And yesterday he lambasted the TRA, saying that the timescale may mean that his consortium may be the only bidder for the third licence.
'I am exhausted and my team is exhausted working on getting this in on time but we will not sleep until it is done,' he said.
'It is going to be incredibly tight.'
The TRA should have extended the bidding process again and there is just not enough time to get all the paperwork done, he said.
'If we complete all the paperwork we will probably be the only bidder.
'There is a high likelihood that we will be the only bidder.
'We have a million forms to fill in and they want bidders with 10m subscribers and $2 billion revenues and they want details of everyone's CPR numbers who have a five per cent interest in a bid,' he said.
'Other potential bidders could be disqualified because of the timetable. It's not their capability that is in question it is just time. We have been looking at bringing in other partners but there has not been time at this stage.
'The issue is, if the process fails because the TRA did not extend the timeline, then it will be a disgrace for the country.
'I think the Economic Development Board should have stepped in and made the TRA grant an extension.'
He said that the 2Connect bid with Mobily brought together mobile expertise from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
'We have amazing partners in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and we can connect all the base stations with fibre,' he said.
'We are looking at perhaps bringing in other partners and a possible IPO in the future.'
But TRA general director Alan Horne said that two other operators had already confirmed they would be bidding for the licence and added that he felt the timescale was more than adequate.
'We gave October 13 as the first deadline and then extended it to October 30.
'We were then approached by operators to extend this further because of problems they faced getting bank guarantees in the current financial situation. We then extended the deadline to last month and, because of the number of holidays further extended it to January 11.
'We extended the deadline by three months and you have to question what an operator has been doing if they are nor ready in that time.'
2Connect, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Etihad Etisalat, Saudi Arabia's fastest growing mobile network operator.
Under the terms of the agreement, 2Connect and Mobily will partner in order to successfully bid for Bahrain's third mobile licence and establish a company which will subsequently run the network.
'2Connect is very excited to be taking part in this auction even though we have trepidations with respect to the process,' said Mr Al Shirawi.
'We feel that it may yet fail due to the initial bad timing of the launch of the process and the limitations considering the extensiveness of the documentation needed as well as the regulator's strange and inexplicable decision making process regarding extensions requested by operators.'
'If awarded the contract, the new company formed by Mobily and 2Connect will aim to further communications' penetration in the kingdom and benefit the consumer through innovative offerings and a customer centric approach to market,' he said.
'The association of Bahrain's leading Other Licence Operator and Sau