ECONOMY

Q-Telecom hits 100,000

Q-Telecom, the smallest and youngest of the four mobile phone operators, racked up 75,563 subscribers in its first six months of operations, underscoring the difficulties faced by the company in an intensively competitive market close to saturation. The company, which made its debut in June last year, said yesterday it had signed on 99,742 mobile and fixed-telephony subscribers at the end of 2002. Of the 75,500 mobile phone users, two-thirds or 57,222 were pre-pay users and the remaining 18,341 contract subscribers. The bulk of the subscribers were signed on in the fourth quarter of 2002 after Q-Telecom slashed SMS charges and fixed-line rates by 10 to 47 percent. Net new additions in mobile telephony amounted to 63,310 and in fixed-line 19,481 in the final quarter. The success of the aggressive pricing strategy encouraged the operator to announce another rate cut early this month, lowering voice calls by as much as 41 percent. Cost aside, Q-Telecom has also sought to expand its subscriber base with innovative packages targeted at families, companies and individuals. The numbers, however, represent a drop in the bucket compared with market leader CosmOTE, which last week reported a customer base of three million in Greece and half a million in Albania. Third-placed Stet Hellas on Wednesday said it had 2.5 million customers at the end of 2002. Vodafone Panafon has yet to release figures. According to the National Telecommunications and Post Commission, the Greek mobile penetration rate last year reached 78 percent. Q-Telecom, a subsidiary of IT company InfoQuest, is planning to capture a 5-percent share of the mobile telephony market by 2004.