Telekom Austria unit granted Belarus 3G licence

By Nick Wood , Total Telecom

Velcom's EUR9.5 million UMTS licence to run until August 2017.

Telekom Austria on Tuesday announced its Belarusian subsidiary has been awarded a countrywide 3G licence.

The operator paid ?9.5 million for the UMTS licence, which runs until 24 August 2017.

Telekom Austria said it has already begun upgrading Velcom's mobile network to support 3G services at a rate of 10 base stations per day.

The telco was awarded 5 MHz of 3G spectrum in October 2009 along with its closest rival and Belarus' largest mobile operator MTS Belarus, but lacked an operating licence for 3G.

Turkcell's Belarusian unit Life - which was called BeST when it was acquired by the Turkish operator for $500 million in 2008 - was first to be allocated 3G frequencies in late July 2009.

MTS currently has the largest share of the market with 4.52 million subscribers at the end of the third quarter ended 30 September 2009. Velcom comes a close second reporting 4 million customers at the end of the same period. Life had 0.8 million subscribers at the end of Q3 2009.

Mobile penetration in Belarus currently stands at just under 95%, according to Telekom Austria.

Meanwhile Velcom has been selling mobile broadband services to its customers in Belarus after striking a reseller deal with CDMA operator Belcel in May 2009.

The 50-50 revenue sharing agreement saw Velcom offer Internet services running on Belcel's EV-DO network, which at the time was capable of supporting connection speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps.

Under the terms of the original deal, Velcom took control of Belcel's retail mobile broadband sales and customer services operation, leaving Belcel in charge of running the infrastructure side of the business.


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