Free telecommunications market a boon to users

Greeks will be able to enjoy the additional benefits of a deregulated telecommunications market later this year as they will be able to sign up permanently with an alternative carrier for long-distance, international and fixed-to-mobile telephone calls without the need to dial up a four-digit code as is the case now, the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) said yesterday. Liberalization of the telecommunications market took place on January 1, 2001 and since then Greece has seen an explosion of alternative operators accompanied by a sharp fall in telephone charges. Thirty-seven alternative carriers have been awarded special licenses in the year and a half since then, with a third of the population able to access five operators at any time, EETT Chairman Emmanouil Giakoumakis said yesterday. More than half of the population can choose from three to five operators for local calls while the choice for long-distance and international calls is even broader, with Greeks nationwide able to access more than five carriers. He said 1.5 million access numbers have been given out to the alternative operators to date. Giakoumakis said growth prospects in the telecommunications market are significant. «The market is constantly expanding. Turnover this year is expected to increase by 8.5 percent,» he said. Revenues from fixed and mobile telephony services, leased lines and data services rose by 12.2 percent to 5.1 billion euros last year. Giakoumakis said Greeks will be able to make international calls via an alternative carrier on a permanent basis without having to dial a four-digit code effective December 1. The preselection carrier facility will be extended to local, long-distance and fixed-to-mobile calls from February 1, 2003 onward. Number portability, whereby users get to keep the same telephone number regardless of which operator they sign up with, will be available for fixed telephony on January 1, 2003 and for mobile telephony on July 1, 2003. Subscribers, however, will need to pay a one-off charge, estimated at below 30 euros, to the carrier for the privilege. Announcing the second phase in the implementation of a new, 10-digit telephone numbering system, Giakoumakis said fixed-line numbers will begin with the number 2 on November 3, in place of the 0 that currently precedes all telephone numbers. Mobile telephone numbers will start with 6 instead of 0 effective January 19. The new telephone numbers will not operate in parallel with the old system in the second phase, unlike the first stage when the new 10-digit system and old 7-digit system ran concurrently for seven months to allow users to get used to the change. Greece introduced a 10-digit numbering system in July last year, as it sought to broaden its telecommunications capacity and create room for the entrance of alternative carriers.