ECONOMY

Cyprus opens up mobile telecommunications sector to privately owned firms

NICOSIA – Cyprus will take its first plunge into deregulation of its mobile phone market today when it publishes conditions of an auction it hopes will attract top-notch companies in October. The European Union-directed deregulation process needs to be complete by October 30, when authorities will launch an ascending multiple-round auction for its first GSM license to the private sector. The bidding starts at 6.8 million pounds ($13.05 million) and includes a third generation license for the successful applicant. «Tomorrow we will be publishing the terms and conditions of the auction and we will be setting September 2 as the deadline for the submission of interest,» said Panayiotis Kakkouras, the deputy commissioner for telecoms and postal services. «We have seen interest from serious organizations overseas since the process with public consultations started last year, so we are very encouraged,» he told Reuters. State-controlled CyTA now has the monopoly over mobile phone services. Some 65 percent of Cypriots subscribe to its CyTA GSM service, according to figures released by CyTA this week. The figures are applicable only to the southern parts of Cyprus controlled by the Greek-Cypriot government. CyTA will be required to pay a license fee equal to what the newcomer will pay via auction. Cyprus, with a population of just under 1 million, is to join the European Union with nine other Eastern and Central European countries in May 2004. Brussels rapped Cyprus earlier this year for delays in the process, which is at least six months behind schedule. Cyprus attracts some 2.5 million tourists a year, which authorities say shows the market’s potential. Expressions of interest will be assessed in September by an economic and technical panel. Companies or consortia must have a proven track record in mobile telephony with at least five years’ experience and at least 100,000 subscribers. The newcomers’ license will be valid for 20 years.