SOFIA (SeeNews) – British mobile phone operator Vodafone and Telekom Austria’s Bulgarian mobile arm, MobilTel, signed yesterday a partnership agreement that will enable MobilTel customers to use Vodafone services for international voice and data roaming, and business and consumer products. «This is a long-term partnership, the focus of this partnership are products and services for our customers, to increase even more the competitiveness and leadership of MobilTel in Bulgaria,» MobilTel’s CEO Josef Vinatzer told a news conference. «The first services under this partnership you might expect very soon, in the second quarter of this year,» he added. Including MobilTel, Vodafone now has partner networks in 32 countries and equity investments in 27 countries all over the world. «Our partnership concept complements our strategy of extending the Vodafone footprint by equity investment,» Paul-Gerhard Itjeshorst, an executive with Vodafone, told the same news conference. «This agreement today… strengthened the Vodafone footprint in central Europe.» Vodafone has been working with partner networks since 2001 and Mobilkom, Telekom Austria’s mobile arm, joined the Vodafone partnership concept in early 2003 with its units in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. The partnership benefits for Vodafone include the company being able to serve its customers when they are roaming in Bulgaria and also to serve its multinational corporate customers, said Itjeshorst. The services, which will appear in a dual branded format, will strengthen Vodafone’s presence in the region. Finally, the partnership agreement will bring additional revenue for Vodafone due to additional roaming revenues and revenues from customers using Vodafone services in Bulgaria, Itjeshorst added. MobilTel is the biggest mobile operator in Bulgaria with about 3.6 million subscribers and a 60 percent market share. It competes with Greek Cosmote’s GloBul, which claims 2.4 million clients, and the newly launched Vivatel.