The Tunisian regulator has confirmed that France Telecom and its local partner Divona have won the contest to acquire a joint mobile and fixed-line license in the North African country. According to Reuters, the partners secured the license via a winning bid of TND257 million (US$193 million), beating off competition from the likes of Turkey’s Turkcell in the process. “This was an excellent offer given the current [economic] crisis,” Tunisian Communication Minister Haj Klai told reporters.

The minister added that France Telecom and Divona plan to invest TND1 billion rolling out the network in the country, creating around 1,000 to 2,000 direct jobs. The license will involve the installation of network infrastructure and the provision of both 2G and 3G mobile services. Services are expected to launch at the beginning of next year. The new operator will compete against Tunisie Telecom, which has over 1 million fixed-line and 4.3 million mobile customers, and Orascom’s Tunisiana, which had 4.2 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2008. It is not clear, however, if Tunisiana will now be awarded a fixed-line license to allow it to compete fairly with its two rivals.