Panafon’s Olympic pledge

Mobile phone company Panafon-Vodafone said yesterday that Greek subscribers will likely have access to third-generation services in 2004, with the 2004 Olympic Games expected to give a big push to this new technology. Managing Director Giorgos Koronias said the company aims to roll out 3G services three years from now. «The 3G network needs to be ready by 2004,» he stressed. While successful 3G trials have taken place around the world, only Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo has launched the new technology to date. Its UK partner, Hutchison 3G, is due to roll out the service by the end of the year. Greek companies have been similarly cautious on the costly and unproven technology. Market leader CosmOTE has indicated a launch date in 2004, to coincide with the Olympic Games to be held in Athens. Koronias said there was a possibility that 3G users under the umbrella of the Vodafone group could enjoy a single tariff, something not possible for GSM subscribers due to the different cost structure in individual countries. He also announced the company’s decision to shed the Panafon brand, the name under which it was created, keeping instead Vodafone, the name of the parent company. The company started preparations for the transition in December 2000 when it added the Vodafone name to Panafon. Vodafone, which holds a 53-percent stake in the Greek company, will absorb the entire cost of the name change. Koronias said the parent company has no plans at the present moment to raise its share in the Greek subsidiary. Omega Securities telecoms analyst John Noikokyrakis said the new name marks the harmonization of the Greek mobile operator’s strategy with the parent company. «Vodafone’s focus is on profitable sectors,» he said. Underlining the company’s emphasis on quality rather than quantity, Koronias said Vodafone leads in profits and turnover in the Greek mobile phone market, more than offsetting rival CosmOTE’s claim to a higher subscriber base. CosmOTE said it had 2.943 million subscribers on its books at the end of 2001. Koronias said Vodafone’s Greek customers are fast approaching the 3-million mark. He noted that the company is well-placed to withstand the added competition from new operator InfoQuest, which is scheduled to launch GSM services this year.

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