NICOSIA – Three groups, including a local division of Greece’s CosmOTE, have applied to take part in Cyprus’s auction of a GSM mobile phone license in October, a senior regulatory official said yesterday. CosmOTE Telecommunications (Cyprus) Ltd, Scancom (Cyprus) Ltd and Atlantic Crest Investment Ltd submitted applications, deputy telecom regulator Panayiotis Kakkouras told Reuters. «There will be a pre-qualification process over the next four weeks before the auction,» he said. The auction will be Cyprus’s first foray into a deregulation process that is expected to gather speed once the eastern Mediterranean island joins the European Union in May 2004. But interest appeared muted. There were no instantly recognizable big names in the lineup other than CosmOTE, which has launched an ambitious expansion drive beyond Greece’s borders in recent years. Kakkouras said Cyprus was satisfied with the response: «We had expected between three and five expressions of interest. We got three so that is within the range we expected,» he said. The auction is scheduled to start on October 15 and will run until the end of the month. Bids start at 5.7 million pounds ($11 million) for a 20-year license. Authorities had initially placed starting offers at 6.8 million but reduced the figure in August at the recommendation of consultants. Cyprus wants the new operator up and running by May 2004. It has said it would also offer a third-generation (3G) mobile license to the successful bidder on condition that those services are up and running within 10 years.