Cairo: State-run phone carriers China Telecom Corp. and Saudi Telecom Co. have expressed interest in acquiring 4G mobile-phone licences offered by the Egyptian government, joining Kuwait’s Zain, which made an official request last week, a Communications Ministry official said.

China Telecom, that country’s third-largest mobile carrier, and Saudi Telecom, the biggest phone operator in Saudi Arabia, haven’t presented formal requests yet, said the official, who asked not to be named discussing private information. A Saudi Telecom official declined to comment. China Telecom didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Interest in the 4G licences by newcomers in Egypt may add to pressure on local units of mobile operators Vodafone Group Plc, Orange SA and Emirates Telecommunications Corp. [Etisalat] to accept license terms before the deadline set by the government at the first week of August. State-run fixed-line monopoly Telecom Egypt has welcomed the offering as it eyes entering a mobile market.

The licences would only be offered to new market players in case current operators rejected the license, the official said. Egypt has about 95 million mobile subscribers, according to the communications ministry website.

The 4G licences replace an earlier plan that some mobile operators threatened to fight in international arbitration because of concerns that a new competitor would eat into their market share, the telecommunications regulator said at the time. The government has said that operators interested in the license will have to pay half of its value in US dollars at a time when the country faces its worst foreign currency shortage in years.