State media: Syria awards license to 3rd cellular operator
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government Monday awarded a telecommunications company a license to become the third cellular operator targeting areas of poor coverage in the war-torn nation, state media reported.
Telecommunications Minister Iyad Khatib told reporters that Wafa Telecom will improve the telecommunications sector in the country that was hard-hit by nearly 11 years of civil war. The conflict left half a million people dead and large parts of the country destroyed.
Khatib said areas with poor coverage will be a target for the third operator indicating that Wafa Telecom was granted several advantages, including allowing it to offer customers a discount rate of up to 50% until the number of its subscribers reaches 3 million.
He noted that the number of subscribers to the current operators “MTN” and “SyriaTel” is more than 16 million. He said Wafa Telecom will begin offering service in November.
SyriaTel originally belonged to President Bashar Assad’s cousin, Rami Makhlouf, but it was seized by the Syrian government last May. MTN is a Syrian-Lebanese joint operator. They have been operating in Syria since 2000 and 2007 respectively.
“The third operator will have a positive economic impact and improve the quality and speed of communications,” Khatib said.
He said the launching of the “Wafa” operator had been postponed several times due to security conditions in Syria.
Khatib said Wafa Telecoms has the right to deal with MTN and SyriaTel adding that the new operator will be allowed to introduce 5G, the fifth and most recent generation of wireless.
The Director General of the Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority, Manhal Junaidi, said the third operator will be allowed to use local roaming on the two existing networks until its network is completed during the first two years.
The capital of the company, according to the resolution, is 10 billion Syrian pounds, ($2.77 million) distributed over 100 million shares. Its headquarters are in Damascus.