From more alternative carriers to lower costs to more jobs, the deregulation of the telecommunications market two years ago has brought multiple benefits to Greek consumers, Transport Minister Christos Verelis said yesterday. «Up to early this year, there was a crush of people jostling for a telephone, today the field is crowded with companies competing for subscribers,» he said. Competition for OTE has come from the 24 companies that acquired permits for voice telephony services, more than 15 of which have already commenced operations. To date, 235 general licenses and 53 special permits have been given out. Alternative carriers may control a small portion of the market but their rate of growth has been rapid, Emmanouil Giakoumakis, chairman of the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT), said. «Based on September figures, alternative carriers’ share of fixed-telephony voice traffic amounted to 2.3 percent of the total. In March, this was 0.01 percent,» he said. OTE is estimated to have a 60 percent share of revenues from the combined fixed and mobile telephony market. Verelis said market liberalization will go a stage further when OTE opens up its local loop to competitors and also sets out the terms for interconnection charges and leased lines. EETT is due to unveil charges for these services shortly. The European Commission last year launched infringement proceedings against Greece for failing to ensure that competitors get access to the local loop. The range of services available to subscribers is set to increase next year, with fixed number portability available from January 1 and mobile number portability from July 1. Effective February 1, subscribers will be able to select an alternative carrier for all calls. The large number of alternative carriers has led to cheaper calls, Verelis said, pointing to the 15 percent fall in OTE rates last year and cuts of 10-40 percent in mobile charges in the last three years. Over the last two years, 4,000 jobs were created in the telecommunications industry. Per capita spending on telecommunications services and equipment last year came to 597 euros against the average European outlay of 838 euros. Verelis also said companies will be allowed to jointly set up masts for third-generation mobile telephony services to help conserve resources.