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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Foreigners snub Malaysian mobile bid
Scene from Celcom website
Five mobile firms serve Malaysia's 23 million people
International telecoms firms have turned down the chance to cash in on Malaysia's next generation of mobile phones.

Five Malaysian firms have put in bids for the third generation licences, but foreign firms have decided to steer clear.

Existing cellular operator DiGi.com, majority owned by Norway's Telenor, said it decided not to bid for "strategic" reasons.

The three 3G licences are being sold for 50m ringgit ($13.2m; 9m) each, a fraction of the price paid by many operators several years earlier during the telecoms boom.

Many international operators ran up hefty debts snapping up 3G licences in different parts of the world.

Those debts are now weighing heavily on the operators, all the more so because there is a large question mark over the revenues that 3G services will generate.

Beauty contest

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is offering the firms the change to run high-speed wireless internet services for the next 15 years.

It has not set a minimum level of investment, but will award the three licences according to expertise and planned coverage.

Malaysia's mobile industry has five telecom firms serving a population of 23 million.

But analysts expect the industry to consolidate, with the race for 3G licences potentially determining future tie-ups.

The five bidders for 3G licences are: Celcom, E-Touch, Telekom Malaysia, TimeSat and UMTS Malaysia.


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