* Primetel 3rd mobile operator by end-2013?
With the number of mobile accounts already reaching 1.12 mln in Cyprus, the race is on for the island’s main telecom providers to increase their share of the pie by offering high speed data services, also known as 4G, the platform that supports all new smartphones.
Primetel is about to officially become the island’s third mobile network operator, having been present for the past two years as an MVNO virtual operator and already building up a market share of about 2.2% as at the end of June.
But Primetel’s management is not content and will probably launch its own dedicated 4G network as soon as it gets the third mobile license by the end of the year or early 2014.
The Limassol-based telco controlled by the Francoudi & Stephanou Group, was the only company that submitted a tender. There was no other bidder, which means the government will negotiate with Primetel for the award of the license, the cost of which was set at 12.3 mln euros.
“This, of course, is only a small part of the investment needed to build our 4G network,” said Managing Director Hermes Stephanou.
“We already provide mobile services to more than 30,000 subscribers and aim to continue growing our market share by offering value and service to those who choose to use our services. The development of our own network will only help us expand and improve the services offered both in terms of value and features,” he told the Financial Mirror.
“We aim to develop a full next generation 4G network from the start allowing for broadband mobile services. A network that can support services cost effectively and efficiently. Needless to say that this involves further serious investment in infrastructure and people, something that Primetel is willing and able to do.”
Stephanou said that Primetel is currently using the 95 xxx xxx prefix and will continue to do so until they exhaust the range and then move on to other ranges as these may be assigned by the Telecoms regulator.
Experts believe that Primetel will probably develop its own network of transmitters in order to secure national coverage, while the terms of the license suggest that the company must reach about 40% of the population within three years and a figure closer to 60 or 70% within five years. For now, however, it will probably share part of the MTN Cyprus transmitter network.
“Our strategic cooperation as announced last year with MTN is alive and well and has benefited both companies, it will continue and be expanded as the opportunities arise enabling both companies to leverage their respective assets in offering quality and value to our customers,” Stephanou said.
“I firmly believe that cooperation between operators benefits all concerned and especially the consumer. I can only hope that once the state owned operator CYTA sorts out its troubles it will also choose to cooperate in order to offer universal services to Cyprus subscribers and avoid mistakes of the past,” he added.
Stephanou said that Primetel will continue to offer a full range of services in all sectors – mobile, fixed, Internet, television and Wifi – “and we shall continue to build innovative and quality services that offer value, both as single services and bundles, such as the 2play, 3play and 4Play. All of our services are available throughout Cyprus, including TV,” he added.
The interest period for the third mobile license closed on September 24, after an extension from the initial deadline of July 24.
Areeba, later taken over and renamed MTN Cyprus, was the final bidder for the first commercial license in 2005, upping the stake to 22 mln euros and knocking out Greek bidder OTE from the race. Government-owned Cyta had matched the 22 mln price at the time.
The government is rushing through the auction as it is already six months behind schedule, according to EU competition rules for the sale of available frequencies, or else it could face harsh penalties.
Experts also believe that PrimeTel seems to have secured the license without auction, and as it has operations already in place, the third mobile network could be up and running “much sooner” than the initial deadline of the end of summer 2014.
Meanwhile, Petros Galides, Deputy Telecoms and Post Regulator, said that current operators Cyta and MTN are already working towards implementing their 4G networks, while Cyprus is also expected to follow the international trends of high-speed broadband using fibre optic networks with speeds of 30-100 gigabits, and advanced mobile services.
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