Nine foreign and four domestic telecom companies have expressed interest in becoming Macedonia’s third mobile operator. The tender was announced late last month, and bids will be accepted through January 12th. By July 2007, the company is expected to be up and running.
One of the conditions for a company to enter the Macedonian market is to make a single payment of at least 5m euros for the usage of frequencies. Bidding companies must verify compliance with this term with a bank guarantee bond amounting to the sum they plan to pay.
The third mobile operator will have the right to use the frequencies for the next ten years, with a possible ten-year extension.
There are a few conditions that the winning bidder must meet. The company must start operating within six months. Its signal must cover 30% of the country in the first year, 50% in the second year and 90% by the fourth year. The transportation and communications ministry will issue construction licenses for the base stations to the new mobile operator.
Another key condition is that the candidates must currently have at least 2 million users and have made annual profits of more than 300m euros in 2004 and 2005. The most important criterion for the selection, however, will be the price offered.
“The government promised that it would make this large step within 60 days from coming to power,” Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said. “The government has delivered on the promise.”
The two current mobile operators in Macedonia — T-Mobile and Cosmofon — have 1.3 million users, amounting to about 62% of the population. Comparative analysis has shown that this number is below the average in countries in the region, and far behind EU countries. If the third mobile operator contributes to lowering the prices and improving the service conditions, usage is expected to increase.