ECONOMY

Telecoms and Internet set for significant shifts

The telecommunications and Internet sector is set to see new shifts this year, although it is hard to forecast any positive news in the information technology (IT) domain. Just as alternative telecom providers are preparing for their latest round of competition with OTE telecom (which is in search of a strategic investor), in IT they simply sit and wait for state projects. Their delay and the decline in the gross sales market, where many of the sectors’ major companies are involved, have forced some firms such as Info-Quest to turn to retailing in order to recover lost revenues. However, even the technology products’ retail market is set for major shifts this year, as foreign chains like Germany’s Media Markt grow stronger in Greece, and Panos Germanos (former owner of Germanos SA) prepares his next move through the Public chain. The market is eagerly awaiting the fate of the Germanos chain, which is now controlled by CosmOTE. Some of the major alternative telecom providers (Tellas, Vivodi and, most recently, FORTHnet) have just started offering services, that relieve their clients of OTE’s fixed charge. Later in the year, their investment will be in installing private infrastructure (optic fiber), increasing pressures on OTE. In more than 30 areas in the capital, alternative providers can reach consumers directly, offering unlimited free telephone calls along with broadband connection to the Internet (ADSL). In the course of this year, the intentions of new investors in the telecoms market will become clear (such as Russia’s Sistema that has acquired a majority stake at Hellas On Line and Attica Telecommunications, and «ON» where former executives of Vodafone and OTE participate). TIM is set for listing in the Athens Stock Exchange this year, following its failed attempt at its sale, while a key factor for the market will be whether the government finds a strategic investor for OTE, with experts being pessimistic about it. The year will see fresh cuts in ADSL connection tariffs, with the speed of broadband Internet rising ever higher. Alternative providers are aware that without a rise in ADSL speed, the combined supply of telecom services (television, Internet and telephone, also known as «triple-play») is impossible, according to the model followed by most European groups. The government has named 2007 «The Year of Digital Convergence,» with certain electronic services promised finally reaching citizens.