Syrian regulator moves to introduce new mobile operator

10 January 2022 | Melanie Mingas

Cover

Syria's telecoms regulator has started the process to license another operator in the country – officially Syria's third player.

According to a statement posted on 10 January, the Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority has completed the draft single license for the third mobile operator. It said the introduction of a third player in the national market would "enhance the access of telecommunications services to subscribers with the best quality".

Specifically the regulator is looking for a 4G operator that can later launch 5G services.

Translated from its original Arabic version, the Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority wrote: "The authority added that one of the licensing conditions for the third operator is that it must launch according to the highest international standards, and that it provide modern services that match the latest global services in the field of mobile phone services."

The incumbents must give the new player the "possibility to benefit from their networks for a period of two years in some areas, pending the completion and installation of devices and the completion of the infrastructure necessary for [the new player] to achieve geographical spread and secure service for the largest number of people possible".

The regulator also said that "…for its part, the authority will provide it with all the appropriate capabilities to enable it to reach a wide segment of subscribers, by allowing it to offer promotions in the first stage of launch"

However, after more than a decade of war, the plans are unlikely to be straight forward.

Syria is currently served by Syriatel and MTN Syria, however MTN Group confirmed in its June financial results that MTN Syria was "placed under judicial guardianship in February 2021". It confirmed its market exit in August with immediate effect and CEO Ralph Mupita said at the time that operating there had become "intolerable".

MTN Group has also exited other Middle East markets as part of a new strategy to focus on Africa.

Ethiopia has made similar moves to open up its telecoms market, moving from monopoly to duopoly over the last year – although the introduction of a third operator was put on hold over recent weeks.