Broad But Cautious Interest For Libya's Long-Awaited Licence

On September 10 2013, Libya's communications and information technology minister, Usama Siala, announced the government's plans to issue a third mobile licence within three to six months. At the announcement, Siala expressed hopes that either local or foreign private investment would stimulate Libya's telecoms market through increased competition and expertise. BMI believes the tender will attract the interest of a number of the region's established players, while the entry of the private sector into the Libyan market is likely to encourage increasingly transparent regulation of the telecoms industry.

Siala did not reveal many details about the terms of the upcoming auction, other than the government plans to make the licence "attractive to the entrant." BMI suspects this means the government will offer a converged 3G and 4G licence, which will be essential for attracting meaningful investment in the country's telecoms sector. Mobile penetration in Libya is already high, with 9.6mn subscribers and a penetration rate of 148.2% in 2012, though there may yet be room for growth, as the Minister of Communications stated that only 6mn SIMs were active. However, the main area of growth will be in the virtually untapped data market: out of the two existing mobile operators, Libyana and Al Madar, both state-owned, only the former offers 3G services.

Based on expressions of interest throughout the first half of 2013, BMI expects a number of the established operators in the MENA region to place bids for the licence, likely including Ooredoo, Etisalat, Zain and France Télécom-Orange. However, Etisalat is in the final stages of acquiring Vivendi's 53% stake in Maroc Telecom and Ooredoo recently bought an operating licence for Myanmar, so they may bid less aggressively than their peers.

A Recovering Market
Libya Mobile Growth Forecast, 2010-2017

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This article is tagged to:
Sector: Telecommunications
Geography: Libya, United Arab Emirates, France, Kuwait, Qatar

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