Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) said yesterday that it had opened up its local exchanges to two more newcomers to the market, a move necessitated by the full deregulation of the sector at the beginning of the year. Cosmoline and Starcom, two companies known more for their competitively priced prepaid telephone cards than anything else, were the latest applicants to get full access to the incumbent’s local loop. Under the agreement with OTE, the Cosmoline network will cover 11 areas countrywide, including the two principal cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, central and western Greece, the northwestern and northeastern regions, the central and southern parts of the Peloponnese, and Macedonia. OTE will also open up its local exchanges on the Aegean islands and Crete to the newcomer. Starcom, in contrast, will offer its telecommunications services to Athens and Thessaloniki in the initial stage. It aims to expand to Chios by June 1, 2002 and to Rhodes and Corfu by the end of 2002. Both companies will be paying tariffs set by the telecommunications watchdog, the National Telecommunications and Post Commission. Local loop unbundling has been a slow process in Greece, with OTE signing its first deal to open up its local exchanges only just last month. Discord over the tariffs to be charged by the incumbent also held up the process. Including yesterday’s agreement, seven companies are set to compete with the incumbent in the coming years for a share of the lucrative local fixed-line telephony market. Research company Strategic International estimated a double growth rate this year, with revenues expected to hit 938 billion drachmas.