The process of selecting the final partner for the second national telephone operator (SNO) is expected to continue next week with an invitation for foreign partners to come to the negotiation table. Lawyers from the department and ICASA met this week in an attempt to settle their differences. By the time of publication it was not known whether agreement had been reached, but sources close to the process were confident there would be no delay caused by a dispute.

This would leave the way clear for the government to issue an invitation next week for interested parties to pre-qualify for closed-door talks with the department. Companies are expected to have a 30-day window in which to apply to be considered and the government hopes to conclude negotiations within two months after that.

Although only the largely British Goldleaf group has publicly said it would continue its bid for involvement in the new operator, the government says several groups from all over the world have already indicated interest. These are thought to include Shanghai Telecom, previously part of the Optis consortium, Germany telecoms consultancy Detecon, which was involved in the launch of Cell C, and at least one other European company.