ECONOMY

OTE launches digital mobile phone network in Bulgaria, chases 100,000 subscribers

SOFIA (Reuters) – OTE Telecom yesterday launched a digital mobile phone network in Bulgaria, GloBul, hoping to win up to 100,000 subscribers by year-end, a GloBul spokeswoman said. We launched our operation today and there is strong interest, judging by feedback from our distributors nationwide, GloBul spokeswoman Radina Ralcheva told Reuters. GloBul is the trademark of OTE subsidiary Cosmo Bulgaria Mobile. OTE last year won a 15-year license to operate Bulgaria’s second GSM network for $135 million. The company says its network covers about 20 percent of Bulgaria’s population of 8 million people. GloBul now operates in four major Bulgarian cities – Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna and Bourgas at the Black Sea coast. We hope to activate our network in two or three more towns by the end of September and have between 70,000 and 100,000 subscribers by year-end, Ralcheva said. The new network will compete against Bulgaria’s two existing mobile phone operators – digital GSM operator MobilTel and analog operator Mobikom, in which Britain’s Cable & Wireless holds 49 percent. The OTE subsidiary aims to complete the third network by 2003, when it plans to cover 80 percent of the population, which will then allow it to operate at a profit, Ralcheva said. By January 2002 it aims to cover 40 percent of the population. OTE has pledged an investment of $250 million to develop its digital network in the country, of which $80 million has been earmarked for this year. Suppliers of equipment for the network include Motorola Inc. and Sweden’s Ericsson. The company has also signed a service provision deal with Greek electronic appliance retailer Germanos. The Development Ministry’s move toward sustainable development is in line with the European Union’s strategy which was reaffirmed at the EU’s Cardiff summit in 1998.