FYROM operator aims high

Cosmofon, the mobile phone operator fully owned by OTE and managed by CosmOTE in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, plans to double its network by the end of the year, enabling it to cover more than three-quarters of the country’s population. The company, which competes with MobiMak, rolled out commercial services on June 12 with about 80 stations. OTE paid $25 million last year for a 22-year license. Cosmofon plans to widen its network to 165 stations by year-end, allowing it to cover 85 percent of FYROM’s population. The mobile operator is investing $70 million this year in building up its infrastructure. Capital expenditure is expected to rise to $105 million next year. Network infrastructure is handled by Hellascom International, an OTE subsidiary that specializes in constructing turnkey and BOT telecommunications projects in the Balkans and the Middle East. CosmOTE took over management of OTE’s Bulgarian and FYROM mobile operations last year on the strength of its success in the domestic and Albanian markets. It is due to receive a 5 percent annual fee of revenues if it meets with certain profitability targets. Early this year, CosmOTE expressed its interest in buying the two operations should OTE plan to sell them. Analysts said the Balkan management contracts will contribute to CosmOTE’s growth and profitability in the future. Cosmofon has adopted CosmOTE’s strategy in building up its market share, focusing on FYROM’s first per-second billing, scaled pricing and making popular services, such as caller identification and call waiting, free to its subscribers.

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