By Ruben Meloyan
The government has given the green light to the creation of Armenia’s third mobile phone network and will call an international tender for that purpose next year, a senior official said on Friday.
Robert Nazarian, chairman of the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), told reporters that the bidding for the wireless license will start on May 1 and last for 90 days. He said it will be administered by a special commission to be formed by the government.
With Nazarian giving no further details, it is not clear when the government decided to further liberalize the Armenian market for wireless services. Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s cabinet has announced no such decision yet.
Nazarian’s statement followed a newspaper report earlier this month which said Armenia will soon have a third mobile operator. The pro-opposition “Zhamanak Yerevan” claimed that it will be owned by President Robert Kocharian’s son Sedrak.
Mobile telephony remained underdeveloped in Armenia until the government’s decision in late 2004 to abolish a legal monopoly on the service enjoyed by the ArmenTel national telecommunications company. A Lebanese-owned company was hastily granted, without a tender, the license to build the second wireless network. The launch of the VivaCell network in summer 2005 led to an explosion in cellphone use in the country.
VivaCell currently boasts over one million subscribers, or twice the number of Armenians using the ArmenTel network. The two companies are now owned by Russia’s two largest mobile phone operators.
(Photolur photo: Robert Nazarian.)