Forthnet expands field

Greece’s second-largest Internet provider, Forthnet, plans to boost its market share and profits by bringing cutting-edge services and products to Europe’s IT outskirts, its CEO said yesterday. With broadband penetration at about 1 percent in Greece, compared to a European average of 14 percent, Forthnet says it is well-placed to benefit from closing the gap and winning over customers from market leader OTE telecom. «When people think of broadband, we want them to link that idea with the name Forthnet,» CEO Pantelis Tzortzakis told Reuters in an interview. «Just as people associate us with bringing the Internet to Greece.» Forthnet, which reported a third-quarter loss in 2006, has about a 20 percent market share in Internet compared to OTE’s 67 percent. It sees liberalization and new products as the catalyst for a return to profit. High prices, low speed and poor service have been the scourge of Internet take-up in Greece, something Tzortzakis believes will change with the introduction of easily accessible and affordable broadband services. Forthnet is set to expand its broadband network to cover more than 80 percent of the Greek population by the third quarter of 2007, and plans to invest about -253 million. It will fund this partly with proceeds from a capital increase last year and government subsidies. It also plans to develop and lay down fiberoptic networks and acquire international capacity, boosting the breadth of its network, Tzortzakis said. «Today, about 75 percent of the revenue stream goes to OTE and we are left with 25 percent. On our own network, only 40 percent will go to OTE, or other operators,» Tzortzakis said. «We’ll triple revenues from existing clients.» Forthnet lost 9.4 million euros in the first nine months of 2006, as it invested to expand operations. Forthnet shares were trading 0.9 percent lower at 10.80 euros a share in Athens. Forthnet already provides combined Internet and phone services – so-called double-play services – and plans to add television and video-on-demand – or triple-play services – by next year. «Interactivity is what broadband will bring, which will be the catalyst for an increased interest for Internet in the country,» Tzortzakis said. «Broadband will be the incentive.» (Reuters)

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