UPDATE 1-Ethiopia extends deadline for new telecom licence bids by a month

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UPDATE 1-Ethiopia extends deadline for new telecom licence bids by a month
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NAIROBI, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Ethiopia has extended the deadline for telecom firms to bid for new operating licences by a month to April 5, the sector regulator said on Monday, citing requests from interested companies.

The Horn of Africa nation's telecoms industry is considered the big prize in a push to liberalise the economy because of the huge size of the market, which serves more than 100 million people.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is pressing ahead with the auction of the new licences and the sale of a 45% stake in state monopoly Ethio Telecoms, in spite of a military conflict in the northern Tigray region.

Firms will be required to submit their technical and financial bids by April 5, compared with a previous deadline of March 5, the Ethiopian Communications Authority said in a statement.

Winners will be given full operating licences, but they will not be allowed to offer mobile phone-based financial services, government officials said last year.

They will also be required to set up their own network infrastructure, such as cellphone towers, they said.

Kenya's top operator Safaricom SCOM.NR , which has expressed an interest in a consortium with Vodafone VOD.L and Vodacom VODJ.J , estimated in 2019 it would have to pay about $1 billion for a new licence.

Other firms that have expressed an interest include South Africa's MTN MTNJ.J , Etisalat from the United Arab Emirates and France's Orange SA ORAN.PA .

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