The second national operator (SNO) working committee has short-listed two of the original four bidders for the SNO licence, although only one of the remaining two was not recommended to the minister, writes Rodney Weidemann of ItWeb.

The recommended bids will now be reviewed by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) and a decision will then be taken as to which one will be put forward to minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri for consideration for the 51% equity stake.

Two Consortium, which includes Scandinavian operator Telenor, SwedTel and local company Mvelephanda, and CommuniTel, which involves Telecom Namibia, the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association, Gateway Communications (UK/South Africa) and Premier Contracts Agency from the UK were the two recommended consortiums.TeleAccess, which operates the SNO in Zimbabwe, was the bidder that was not put forward to the minister.

Deacon Mathe, chairman of CommuniTel, says an agreement was reached between it and fellow bidders T-Systems/Detecon, which will see the two consortiums collaborate in making a single bid.As such, that means the T-Systems/Detecon bid was not rejected, but merely that the bidders chose to fall under the CommuniTel ambit instead.

"We are very happy to hear that we are one of the two recommended bidders put forward to the minister by the SNO working committee, as it has been a long process and a lot of work to get us where we are," says Mathe.

"We are particularly pleased that the bids have been short-listed in their entirety, rather than attempting to have bits and pieces of several bids combined into one Œsuper bid’, as was mooted at one point."

He says that although the minister may yet choose to ask the two recommended bidders to discuss just such a possibility at a future date, CommuniTel is confident it has what it takes to win the licence on its own.

According to Siyabonga Madyibi, a spokesman at ICASA, the regulator can only recommend a single bid; it does not have the power to attempt to combine parts of different bids."We will judge the two applicants based on defined criteria, and the one that scores the highest will then be recommended to the minister, who will then decide whether to award them the licence," says Madyibi.