ECONOMY

Top Turkish mobile operators are fined

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey’s competition watchdog slapped fines worth millions of dollars yesterday on the country’s top two mobile telephony companies – Turkcell and Telsim – for unfair competition against the Italian GSM operator Telecom Italia Mobile. The companies have long been involved in a dispute over roaming rights, with Turkcell and Telsim denying infrastructure services to Aria – a GSM company owned jointly by Telecom Italia Mobile and Turkey’s biggest bank Isbank. The Competition Board said Turkcell and Telsim had «abused their dominant positions in the GSM infrastructure services market in an act that obstructed their competitors from entering the market.» The board ordered the two companies to pay as a fine equal to 1 percent of their net sales in 2001, which translated to 21.82 trillion Turkish lira ($15.3 million) for Turkcell and 8.58 trillion Turkish lira ($6 million) for Telsim. Telecom Italia Mobile and its Turkish partner decided last month to merge with Turkey’s state-run mobile phone operator Aycell in order to overcome infrastructural difficulties. The initial deal, hammered out during a visit here by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is expected to be finalized later this month. Turkey is desperately seeking to attract foreign investors and to hold on to those already in the country in a bid to overcome economic recession. Telecom Italia Mobile entered the Turkish market in March 2001 when it launched mobile phone operator Aria – a in joint venture with Isbank – with an investment of $2.5 billion. Of the four mobile phone operators in Turkey, Turkcell is the biggest with 16.3 million subscribers, while Telsim is second with 6 million. Aria and Aycell have 1.7 million subscribers in total. They hope to increase this to 5 million by the end of 2003, following the merger.