Interested parties must pay £5,000


Interested parties - who have to pay £5,000 to get the tender documentation - are expected to study the conditions of the competition very closely, before deciding whether to apply.

Industry sources are tipping a British Telecom/ESB consortium to be among the front runners. The two parties are currently finalising the details of a joint venture, which entails using the ESB's network to install a phone network here.

Sources said yesterday that the ESB had been very disappointed that it was unsuccessful as part of a consortium which failed to win the second mobile phone licence.

It is also expected that several of the other unsuccessful bidders for the second licence will consider entering for the new one. These could include Sigma Wireless, which was part of the Persona consortium. It also included Motorola and Unisource.

However, Unisource could not bid, as its alliance included PTT Netherlands and Telia of Sweden who are now strategic alliance partners of Telecom Eireann.

It is also expected that Orange, which has a DCS licence in Britain and has also entered the Northern Ireland market, will at least take a look.

Cable & Wireless may also consider whether it is worth bidding. The company operates several mobile phone licences internationally including Mercury One to One in Britain.

Vodaphone, the first mobile phone operator in Britain, is also tipped to consider a bid.

Industry sources also said some other European telephone operators may be interested. The closing date for the competition is Friday March 27th, next year.

"The key question big operators will ask themselves is whether it is worth investing up to £100 million in Ireland for what could be a very small share of the market, or whether that money would be better spent elsewhere," said one large player.