The race is on for another major telecommunications prize – the right to supply and operate one of two digital exchange factories proposed for the Arabian market. According to the Financial Times, the supra-national Arab Industrial Investment Co commissioned KMG Thomson McLintock and British Teleconsult to study the telephone capacity needs of the Arab world and propose a solution. The consultants reported that likely demand for digital exchanges would justify the building of two factories, both using imported technology, and suggested that one should be in Egypt and the other in Algeria. Egypt has already put out tenders for a factory, but only to companies that have made large foreign sales, so excluding GEC and Plessey with System X. According to the FT, Alcatel NV, AT&T-Philips and L M Ericsson are seen as the front-runners. If Algeria were to win the second factory, the French connection would likely see Alcatel home and dry. The consultants say annual capacity at the two plants should be at least 250,000 lines a year to be viable. The proposals were accepted by a meeting attended by representatives of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, but national rivalries could stymie the plan.
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