Mobile phone company CosmOTE said yesterday that the total number of active subscribers for the year to September reached 2.7 million, with analysts saying that the figure pointed to near-saturation in the contract customer market which could possibly spark off a battle in the prepaid segment. CosmOTE said the 2.74-million subscribers marked a 55.5 percent increase from the corresponding period in 2000. Of this figure, 1.44 million were contract customers while prepaid users amounted to 1.3 million, up by 39.2 percent and 78.6 percent respectively. The company said that slightly more than half, or 52.4 percent, of its customers are contract users and 47.6 percent prepaid subscribers, improving on the 55:45 ratio recorded in the second quarter of the year. Eurosec telecoms analyst Savvas Simatos said he was quite impressed with CosmOTE’s continuous growth. A clear pricing policy and a lower commission paid to dealers have helped the company expand its base, he said. Noting that the nine-month figures were better than expected, Intersec telecoms analyst Constantinos Karitsos said the sharp slowdown in the contract segment in the third quarter is a cause for concern. CosmOTE signed on 50,058 new contract customers and 171,736 prepaid in the third quarter. The 50,000 figure must be the smallest increase for CosmOTE since the end of 1999. It could even be the smallest on record, Karitsos said. The company had 80,488 new additions in the contract sector in the second q uarter. With the figures suggesting near-saturation in this segment, mobile phone companies will need to adopt a more aggressive strategy in retaining contract customers, the Intersec analyst said. Competition will now move to the prepaid market, which is not so profitable compared with contract customers. The problem is, you can’t control this sector, he noted. Albanian subsidiary AMC notched up a 52.5-percent gain in customers to 204,326 in the third quarter of the year, with net additions amounting to 70,346. An overwhelming majority (89 percent) were prepaid subscribers. Eurosec’s Simatos said the company could face pressure following the entry of rival Panafon-Vodafone into the Albanian market early this year. CosmOTE also predicted a disconnection rate of 17.3 percent for the year based on its nine-month figures, attributing a substantial part of this to customer transfers. The analysts said the figure appeared to have risen sharply and could soar to 20 percent by the end of the year.